Toddler Bedroom: Visual Expectations
How to Use Visual Expectations in the Toddler Bedroom
They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” for good reason. You can repeat yourself endlessly or you can post photos that will constantly, consistently show children exactly what you expect. Young children think in pictures. You can tell a child what to do over and over again, but she won’t really “get it” until she sees it and does it herself many times. Visual Expectations like Ways to be Helpful, Picture Rules, Visual Routines and simple images (like those that show what a clean doll house looks like or which bin the blocks go in) demonstrate exactly what we want children to do in a given situation so they can be successful.
If you expect the dolls to go in the doll bin after your child’s done playing, then you need to tape a photograph to the doll bin that shows that expectation. You’d then practice putting the dolls in the bin together, refer to the picture on the bin often and encourage, encourage, encourage!
Keep the complexity of the task and your child’s abilities in mind when you are creating your Visual Expectations. Tasks that are too difficult increase the likelihood of frustration, resistance and meltdowns. The goal is to provide children with the opportunity to have a positive experience, be successful and contribute to the family’s wellbeing. Toddlers are developmentally prone to being curious about household tasks and willing to help out. Visual Expectations and Ways to be Helpful harness and nurture that inclination.
Let’s say making the bed is a skill you want your toddler to possess. First, be certain that the expectation you are setting is doable for your child’s age and ability. A bed made with smooth blanket and tight hospital corners is an unrealistic goal for a 3-year-old and will only end in frustration (and likely tears or tantrums). A more attainable goal for a 3-year-old would be to help you pull the blanket up, and then place the pillow and stuffed animals in the proper place. You will need to post a photograph showing a bed that is made the way you want it to look and be prepared to help… a lot. You might even create a picture book showing the steps necessary to make the bed properly. Your constant, patient support lays a foundation for your child to complete this task independently in the future.
Take a moment to notice all of the Visual Expectations posted in Sophie’s room. There’s the laundry hamper with a photo of a child putting clothes in it, a photo of a bed that is made, a photo of a clean doll house, a photo on the block bin, a photo on the doll bin, a photo on the craft supply bin, a morning Visual Routine and a bedtime Visual Routine. These Visual Expectations all provide vital support for Sophie’s emerging Executive Skills, priming her brain for success.