Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder what you actually got done? Chances are you actually got lots done. But in the midst of taking care of tiny humans, house work, managing sleep, tantrums, food etc, it can feel like most of your ‘to-dos’ (for both your child and you!) can fall by the wayside.
Well keep reading as we have a [*super easy*] solution for you that will change both you and your child’s day and help you feel way more organised!
We are Alison and Chiara from Walky Talky Baby, writing this blog for you to share our tips on gently providing structure to your day.
We are a Paediatric Speech Pathologist and Physiotherapist and have worked with babies and children for over 13 years. We have an online business which aims to support parents to feel confident supporting their child’s communication, gross motor and play skills in the first 2 years of life (and beyond!).
For loads of free resources, information, tips and strategies, head to our website www.walkytalkybaby.com or join our online membership, Walky Talky Baby: The Membership.
Providing gentle structure to anchor your day
We developed this resource when first in lockdown last year to help us provide structure to our days with our own children, and to help other parents do the same. If you are currently in isolation at home – hang in there and we hope this resource can help!
What is this resource we are talking about?? Visual timetables! Basically just little pictures you use to make a little plan of your day - sounds simple but they are really powerful and real game changers in our houses!
What are visual timetables?
Visual Timetables are a pictorial representation of the routine in our day. You can use them to make sure you’re including all the important things each day like play time….and time for YOU! They don't have to be pretty, hand drawn works well too! But if you'd like a set to print and go with right away (including a guide on how to use them) download yours here!
Here’s some different ways you can use visual timetables at home:⠀⠀
- Plan your play. VISUAL TIMETABLES can be used to plan play time activities, everything from song time through to play dough. They help to give your baby some understanding of what is coming next. Read our Walky Talky Baby Visual Timetable guide for lots more information about how to use them at different ages and the benefits of doing so for your baby and toddler.
- Remember playtime can be short but sweet. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth play session. Set aside 5 minutes between chores to sit down and have some 1:1 time with your baby that you will both love!
- Home schooling? Use visual timetables to map out what school work needs to be done. Mix it up with breaks for both you and your child so that they get a break to play, and you get a break to have a cup of coffee!
- Encourage independent play. As your child gets older and more capable of independent play, incorporate this into your visual timetable (e.g. with a card for ‘quiet play time’). You can also have next to it what you need to get done in that time so that your child understands why you can’t play with them then (e.g. ‘Mummy is cooking dinner, you can have quiet play time).
- Promote choice and control. Help your child follow the routine by getting them involved. There are ‘non-negotiables’ that have to be included in the visual timetable (e.g. school work, brushing teeth, bath time etc) but for things like playtime, let them choose what they get to do (e.g. inside play or outside play?).
- Start easy and follow through. To begin with your child will need support to follow the visual timetables – just like with all new skills! Choose activities that they like to do to begin with, so it is easier for them to follow the timetable (e.g. ‘First play time, then baking’). Once you’ve put something on the visual timetable….stick with it! If your child is having trouble sticking to the plan, try to do the planned activity even for a few minutes. Follow any least preferred activities (e.g. getting dressed) with something fun so they get a reward after.
Supporting your child’s language
Visual timetables are a great tool for supporting your child's language for several reasons:
- They provide visual information to go alongside a spoken word, therefore helping them understand the word even better. A picture lasts a lot longer than a word!
- Your child might understand the visual cue before they understand the word, so looking at the picture will help prepare them for the activity and help them understand that word. (e.g. You say 'Time for bath!' but your child doesn't understand all those words together....they see the picture for 'bath' and it helps them realise what you are telling them!).
- They can help you simplify your own language which is such a valuable strategy for supporting your baby's language skills! As you present a picture, you will likely talk using simple words to describe the pictures (e.g. 'First playdough, then bath time'). This is so much easier for your baby to hear and understand than a long sentence such as ('Listen we have to get some playdough out first to play with then after that we'll run your bath and you can get in for a wash').
Fitting ‘active’ time in for both you and your child!
Active play is important for everything from building strength and motor skills to regulating and improving mental health… YES the benefits are there for BOTH you and your kids!
What are we aiming for? The World Health Organisation has some lovely clear guidelines for all of us! More here but in a nutshell...
- Babies- floor play is key, several times a day and should include 30 mins of tummy time (in small chunks)
- Pre school Children- 3 hours of active physical play a day. For over 2 years old this should include an hour of moderate to vigorous activity.
- School Age Children- 1 hour per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity. Should incorporate vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 days a week.
- Adults- It gets more complicated but 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity over the week is a minimum.
At all ages Variety is important and MORE is better! There is SO much information available on WHY this is important but we want to help you with the HOW!
Again the visual timetables (VT) provide a simple option for supporting routine and building habits about exercise. Perhaps try:
- Using VT cards to give choices about types of active play, e.g. “shall we play with a ball or do some yoga on the mat?”.
- Stick a VT card somewhere accessible to remind yourself to prioritise exercise and active play.
- Use cards to help support your authority, “this is Mummy’s time to exercise, come join in first and then we can colour in together”.
- Use VT cards to structure movement breaks in between homeschooling activities or your own work time, “now we need to finish this worksheet, next we will go for a scoot on the driveway”
- Use VT cards to build fun movement rituals into your day: a pre-bath dance party or some animal walks on the way out to the car. The cards will remind you to prioritise movement in your day.
Get started straight away!
We hope this has given you enough information and inspiration to start incorporating visual timetables into your day, straight away! They don’t need to be fancy - some pictures or words on a piece of paper will do the trick too!
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions - we wish you the best with your gently structured days!
Chiara & Alison
Walky Talky Baby