My name is Jen Arndt. I am a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor, teacher and parent, and I thought it would be helpful to share the Conscious Discipline best practices for daily schedules that I use in my home.
Many adults rely on a calendar or planner to manage their daily time management, prioritization and organizational needs. I cannot imagine how I would function without my calendar on my phone! Similarly, a visual daily schedule helps children know what to expect throughout the day. These schedules soothe the lowest center of the brain, the Survival State, to help us feel safe. Especially during difficult times like we’re experiencing with COVID-19, it’s important that we offer a daily schedule to our children so they know the plan for the day to help them feel safe.
Young children encode information through pictures, so it’s essential to use photos in your daily schedule. In my home, we use a magnetic daily schedule on our refrigerator. You could also use a cookie sheet with magnets, a paint stick or ruler with Velcro pieces, or a file folder with Velcro pieces. It’s also helpful to have a container to put the completed tasks in.
I’ve used a visual daily schedule with my son since he was a baby. When he was a baby, the schedule was simple: eat, play, sleep. As he gets older, the schedule changes to meet his developmental needs. My family’s daily activities can change, so I created a schedule that is both easy to use and flexible, depending on what we have planned. I printed photos to represent each part of the day, laminated the photos (this is the teacher in me, lamination is totally optional!), and glued a magnet to the back so they attach to the refrigerator.
In the morning, I simply put the photos in order so my son can see what is planned for the day, and we review them together. It gives me an opportunity to discuss any special or different events that will take place (play date, running errands, etc.) After he completes each task, he:
- Returns to the schedule
- Takes the photo off the refrigerator
- Says, “I did it!”
- Places the photo in the “I Did It” box
- Looks to see what comes next
Now that my entire family is home all day due to COVID-19, I’ve added more icons to give more structure to our day. Sometimes I will give him a choice. For example, “Today, do you want to play with Playdoh or create some art?” Other times, I will choose specific activities that I want to do at a certain time (Baby Doll Circle Time, The Feeling Buddies Curriculum, “Mama School”, etc.).
My son frequently asks to watch TV shows. It was frustrating for both of us to continually have the TV conversation, so I knew it would be helpful to support him by adding a TV icon. Now that I’ve added the photo, he looks at the schedule to know when he will have screen time and he no longer asks me to watch a show throughout the day.
I also added a Free Play photo which represents independent play. With my husband and I working from home now, there are times when we both need to check emails, do laundry, cook, clean, etc. The Free Play schedule addition has been helpful because my son knows this is time for him to play by himself so Mommy and Daddy can finish our tasks. During this time, he is able to play in his room alone or bring a toy close to us to play independently.
I’ve found the consistent, yet flexibile use of this daily schedule to be helpful for my family. I hope it will help you provide a sense of safety for yours, especially during this different and challenging time.