“Picture Plan” offers transition strategy for preschoolers

Parenting Preschoolers: A Picture Plan
by Kari Patterson
Sacred Mundane

Don’t you just love when you find something that works?!  Perhaps you’re like me and you’re so used to trial and error that when something becomes trial and success you pinch yourself–Yes!

After sharing about my difficult Easter Sunday I received a lot of helpful advice. It was clear that part of what created the massive meltdown was a triple threat of terror for tots: 1) Being sick, 2) Change of routine without notice, and 3) Raised expectations without notice.  All those three things came into play that day and the result wasn’t pretty.  I learned my lesson about taking kids to church when they don’t feel well, and learned my lesson about having unspoken expectations of my kids that aren’t clearly communicated. But #2 was the one that I really saw as the kicker, and every day since I’ve seen how this plays out in our home.

The reality is I have a 4-year-old who has an aversion to change. So whenever I suggest something (anything!) or lead us into a transition there is constant resistance. So I found myself irritated, annoyed, and could feel myself tense up in even approaching transitions, because I knew there would be a battle.

So a schoolteacher friend of mine suggested making a Picture Plan. It totally made sense. Since Dutch can’t read my schedule for the day, he has no way of mentally preparing himself for transition. Sure I can tell him, but if you know 4-year-olds you know how long they’ll remember that — about 30 seconds.

So we started in the morning making a Picture Plan. Simple really. I write out the 8-10 main events of the day, while he’s watching so he can help create our plan, and draw a picture of each one next to it.  For example:

Ok, pretty simple and insignificant, right?

He loves it. It’s life-changing.

He got so excited the first day, as he looked through all the pictures.  We’d keep checking back on the Picture Plan all day so he could see what’s next and anticipate the change.  Results?

Amazing. Sometimes he’d even come find the Picture Plan and hold it up, showing me what we were going to do next. Even on the day that I was off studying and Jeff was home, Jeff created the picture plan (pictured above you can see his beautiful artwork) and it worked like a charm again.  Plus, it gives the kids a chance to each pick one thing to put on the Picture Plan for the day.

The kicker? Yesterday there was one point where we actually got through all of our activities but still had some time before rest. So I said the kids could do some more playing outside if they wanted. Dutch responds,  ”But Mommy, it says we were having our rest next.”  Ummm…. Ok! Can you tell how much this has helped my dear little boy?!  Of course sometimes a welcome change is great, like today since our house is showing I let the kids watch Toy Story. But before I did I drew it in onto our Picture Plan so they could see how it fit into the whole scheme of the day.


I’m so thankful for my dear friend (who doesn’t even have her own kids but who has “raised” hundreds of kids in the classroom!) who gave this advice. It was obviously an answer to prayer.

Do you have a little one (or a big one!) who has a hard time with change and transition? Maybe a Picture Plan is just what they (or you) need to save the day. Hope this can help. Blessings on your day.

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