Today’s Mama Monday focuses on how to get your children cued in to their environment and develop a sense of time. Whether you have an autistic child, sensory processing disorder child, a child with attention deficits, or an otherwise normally-functioning child, these tips and techniques can help your child to engage their day (and play) better!
Use Visual Cues to Organize Possessions!
[Note: the following steps can be used to organize adult possessions like craft items, tools, papers, or books also] Toys can get overwhelming, especially the little ones. Some of the toys your children need to play with get lost in a sea of flashy (but rather useless) gizmos. Helping of Hope: you can quickly reduce the clutter to 1/3 or less! Here are some steps I took to streamline our play routine and I think they will work for you too (this is especially fun to do at Christmas; if your children are older, you can tell them you are making room for their Christmas presents: they may even be willing to help!):
- Pull out the toys your children NEED to play with (educational toys, art supplies, a favorite doll or stuffed toy to practice caring for others, toys that encourage imaginative play, a couple of toys your child is emotionally attached to, etc)–no more than 10 unless you have a designated play room–organize and put in accessible places;
- Separate the rest of the toys in three piles, one to discard, one to circulate, one to organize and put away.
- Try to put as many (if not all) of the battery-powered, non-educational toys in the discard pile. They cost extra money to keep (batteries) and can limit imaginative play; even if they were expensive, they aren’t worth the storage space. Unless your child plays with it frequently, or you are willing to help them use it regularly, discard it.
- Try to put all the promotional (fast-food children’s meal), stocking-stuffer, party-favor, and other tiny toys in the discard pile. These toys are to children as junk mail is to adults; they keep accumulating and keep you from the important stuff. It might be worth getting into the habit of throwing these toys away on the same day the children get them, after they go to bed, or as soon as they lose interest. Chances are, they will keep getting more in the future!
- If you have a lot of one particular type of toy, try to divide it equally across all three piles, with the toys your children like the most in the organize pile, the toys you want your children to play with in the circulation pile, and the toys neither of you like or use that much in the discard pile.
Use Visual Cues to Organize Time!
If you have a child who has difficulty sequencing events or needs to develop a routine; if you are an adult who struggles with staying organized or suffer from memory loss; if you have a busy schedule and need a way to communicate in absentia with older children or adults; a visual flip-schedule is a wonderful prompt to help accomplish certain tasks. A visual flip-schedule is particularly useful when developing a sense of time and routine, avoiding the Summer Slump, getting ready for school season, getting chores done, and homeschooling. Children can take turns flipping the pages as each item is accomplished (or at designated times); you can also use a flip chart to communicate with your older children so they can complete tasks independently while you are otherwise occupied (“Out to Garden: Clean your floor” or “Having Quiet Time with Jesus: Help yourself to breakfast”)
It is important that you don’t over-schedule or become rigid with times; this is an assisting tool, not a slave-driver. Some personalities are driven to keep rigid schedules, others resist them like the plague. If you are trying to accomplish more in your day, it will be tempting to put extra activities in the chart. Prompts give you no power to do what you aren’t already able to do; keep your expectations realistic, organize the MINIMUM sequence of events you need to get through your day; as time “opens up” and your skills develop, you can add extra activities and may be able to wean yourself off a visual schedule altogether. The purpose of a visual schedule is to help your body and brain internalize the schedule through visual sensory information. If you get off track, you can reuse a visual flip-schedule to get back on track. Children will benefit from a visual schedule until they become old enough to motivate themselves to get tasks done on time.
The easiest way to make a flip-schedule is to bend a binder backwards and secure a piece of cardboard–as the base–to the leaves of the binder with packing tape. To make pages, cut construction paper down to letter-size, paste a descriptive picture and short phrase to the paper, and hole-punch to put in your binder.
To make a sturdier flip schedule, make your own Trapezoid out of cardboard (I used a cardboard “envelope” that a photo-book came in) and rip the metal ring-clasp section out of an old binder: poke holes in the top of your trapezoid to fit the studs through and hot glue the ring-clasp section. Insert the construction paper pages as before.
If you are particularly savvy and create an even number of steps, you can put the last “half” of the steps in reverse order on the back of the first set of steps: when you have completed the first set of steps, you merely turn the schedule around and keep flipping. This reduces the total number of leaves in your flip schedule by half.
[UPDATE: I am just now figuring out that I need to write these posts the night before…I guess if you are Pacific Standard Time, you might just get to read this Mama Mondays post before you go to bed! I apologize for not getting it out sooner. Now all I need to do is write my Transformation Tuesdays post and I’ll be all set. Tomorrow will be a “two-for”!]
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