We are all created with a natural bent to lean on one or a few of our senses a little more heavily than the others. Figuring out which sense(s) is your natural go-to area is a way to become more productive and experience greater success for the time you spend working on a task. Whether you are supporting a child with sensory processing, executive functioning, or another challenge that impacts the way they process and complete tasks independently, there is power in teaching children how to use visual schedules and checklists to complete tasks. One of our biggest tasks as parents and teachers is to empower our children to be independent and transfer the skills we are teaching them to other similar situations. The goal is to launch healthy and capable adults, and visual schedules and checklists could be a great way to empower your children.
I am a very visual learner. I seek out ways to structure my day through marking tasks off on a to do list. I am constantly jotting things down for fear of forgetting important things. For children whose auditory processing isn’t one of their strengths yet, creating visual schedules and checklists helps them hold the tasks in their brains and gain a clear beginning and ending of the tasks. I noticed that my sensational child has an incredible memory and can hold concepts about time in his brain when I list off the days or tasks across my fingers. Instead of asking each day how many more days will it be until we see Grandpas and Grandmas, he counts down each day by using my fingers as a visual reminder. When working through the challenging, but so important learning activities at occupational therapy, our OT showed us how we can use a visual schedule to help our child keep track of the “must do” and “free choice” activities that he gets to participate in. Seeing the tasks visually and then having some choice over the order he wanted to participate in the tasks was a game changer! Knowing that desk work is his least favorite activity, he has choice and voice over when he completes the activity and has the visual reminder that other enjoyable activities are coming up.
I decided to try this strategy of creating visual reminders with our weekly Aldi grocery store trip by creating a visual grocery list. I brainstormed with our child our “go to” items in the order that we saw them in the store and drew simple pictures to correspond with the words with a check off box next to each item. (I am not as artistic with my drawings as our children, but our child recognized each image, so I’m going to call that success!) Our child has such a great visual memory that he was able to remember all of the items and their locations in order without even being in the store. Not only is this a great strategy for creating a predictable plan for grocery shopping, it also helps increase word awareness and grow early reading development. It’s a win-win!
Being in a grocery store can send any child (or adult for that matter) into sensory overload. The marketing department for grocery stores intentionally showcase the items seeking to entice the shoppers to buy not only what is on their weekly list, but all of the “must have” extras. The brightly colored packaging and aisles and aisles of options can make not our children’s visual systems overloaded. The crowded aisles of shoppers picking out their choices can also make children feel overwhelmed with the feeling of being crowded. This is one reason why I have found that Aldi is our best option for shopping with children, because there are much fewer aisles to navigate than at Walmart which makes it less overwhelming sensory wise.
Utilizing a visual grocery list can help keep children focused on the task at hand and realize that we have a clear starting and ending point. After going to Aldi each week since last fall, once we started using the visual grocery list, I saw an increase in my child’s stamina for grocery shopping and an increase in the enjoyment of the process of bringing home healthy and delicious food for our family. Grocery shopping is something our child looks forward to each week. He is really disappointed whenever I put in a Walmart pick-up order, because that means he doesn’t get to go to Aldi.
Our weekly Momma and son grocery trips are a way that we can bless our family members with their favorite treats, and my son gets to be the hero of the task. Several times throughout the week when our other kids enjoy their favorite foods, they thank our son for thinking of them and picking out the treats they enjoy. For kids who appear to have extra challenges as compared to their siblings, making them the hero is so important to our family cultures. Sometimes the extra challenges can feel like the villain in the family if we aren’t careful.
Friend, I am wondering if creating a visual schedule or list might empower the children you love this week to enjoy the process and help be the hero in our families. I would love to hear how it’s going once you try it out and to learn about other ways you have found success with a visual schedule or grocery list.
Here are some helpful free resources to help you get started:
-Printable Visual Schedules
-Printable Visual Shopping Plan