Adults often have difficulty with uncertainty when it comes to scheduling tasks of daily living. We make sure we keep track of things we have to do, places we need to go to and people we have to meet. Having a structured routine or a setting a schedule makes our lives easier and helps us manage our daily lives efficiently.
Children are no different than us, they too have difficulty making sense of time and knowing what their day looks like. Establishing a routine and setting a schedule for everyday can be really helpful for children to regulate their emotions, manage anxiety and tackle their day with confidence.
Children need structure in order to function properly in daily lives. One of the easiest ways to add structure to their life is by creating and following a daily schedule.
Benefits of setting routines and creating schedules
- It provides structure and predictability to their day
- Teaches responsibility and planning
- Teaches children the concept of time
- It allows changes to be introduced easily
- It eases transition during the day
- Helps manage anxiety
- Builds self-esteem and confidence
- Makes children more independent
How to set a routine for children?
- Let your child contribute to the process:
Children like being a part of the decision-making process. If they feel like they have a say in what their routine or schedule looks like they are more likely to stick to it. Having the power to decide what they have to do will also enhance their self-esteem.
- Set a realistic schedule:
Don’t set a routine or schedule that is too stressful or difficult for a child to follow. Make sure you set manageable tasks and goals for a child.
- Be clear about the routine:
Make sure you clearly set the order of what needs to happen and at what time. Go over it and explain it in detail to your child. Be specific about the instructions you give and what is expected of the child.
- Put it in writing:
Make sure you have the schedule written down somewhere, in order to set reminders, so that the child doesn’t forget what they are supposed to do. For younger children, use visual schedules where you can pair written items with pictures to help them see the task in action.
What is a visual schedule?
Visual schedules utilise symbols, photographs, drawings, and words to present a sequence of tasks or activities. A visual schedule adds vibrant images in order to enhance children's understanding of what is going to happen and the order in which these events occur. Most teachers also use visual schedules in their classrooms, so the students know the routine for the day. The visuals are arranged in a way that helps children understand what’s expected of them during a day.
They can be used to help children follow a routine, complete tasks, learn new skills and gain a sense of predictability. Visual schedules are beneficial for all children and can be particularly helpful for children with Autism and ADHD.
How do visual schedules help with routines?
We all have important tasks to complete throughout the day. Just like adults, children also have routines and activities they must complete during the day. Children often need help with completing these tasks of everyday living, this is where visual schedules come in handy.
Visual schedules provide a quick visual checklist of the tasks to be completed. They make it easier to implement a daily routine breaking tasks into smaller steps with visuals to depict each step.
How occupational therapy can help?
Primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable children to participate in the activities of daily life independently and easily. Following schedules and setting routines can help children gain independence. Occupational therapists can help you with setting routines and making and implementing visual schedules. An Occupational therapist produces visual schedules to suit all kinds of situations and activities in order to help alleviate the feelings of anxiety or frustration associated with following schedules.