Charlie started his second year of preschool in early September. He loved the first day, tolerated the second day, and threw a fit on the morning of the third. For about three to four weeks after that, he started whimpering just about every time we mentioned school and cried endlessly on the mornings he had to go to school. His teacher assured us that Charlie always quickly recovered after Mark dropped him off at school, but it was still gut-wrenching to leave him there when he was so upset. Gradually, things have gotten a bit better. Some days he still cries before going to school, but it happens less and less.
During the midst of those first few weeks, Mark and I were desperate to come up with ways to make Charlie’s transition to preschool less painful for all three of us. We decided to create a picture schedule for him. We wanted him to easily see when he was going to go to school (and when he’d stay home) as well as see that even on the days he goes to school in the mornings, he still has a lot of time in the afternoon that are free for him to choose what to do. So we wrote down all of Charlie’s favorite activities, such as reading, riding his bike, and going to the park, and then we started taking photographs to represent each activity. Some of the images of the activities were of just the activity, like this one of books to represent reading:
Or this one of his bike:
We quickly realized however, that Charlie would much prefer to look at pictures of himself doing his favorite activities (it appeals to the narcissism that’s probably found in every four-year-old). So we added lots of photos of him doing the things he loves like going for a walk with the dogs (no, we don’t let him hold the leashes outside):
Or vacuuming (yes, he is crazy about vacuuming):
After downloading the photos, we pasted the images into Microsoft Word where Mark typed the name of each activity over the photo image. Once we compiled all of our activity photos, we printed them on our color printer. We tried printing them on photo paper, but we actually found that the color looked better printed on plain paper.
We decided we wanted this to be a learning picture schedule too, so we also typed in large font all the days of the week and days of the month (we just typed numbers from 1 to 31). Just as for the activity photos, we printed out the days and the numbers on our color printer. Then we took all of our picture schedule images and cut them into pieces so that each image had just a small border around it.
Mark took all the images over to Staples and had them laminated in big sheets. Then we cut out each image and attached a small strip of Velcro to the back of each one.
Finally, we had a large sheet of poster board leftover from another project, so we grabbed that (you know I’m all for using what you have!), and attached several strips of Velcro in lines on the poster board. (Did you ever wonder how to know which end of Velcro to attach where? Several years ago our friend Shannon told us this ridiculously sexist way to remember: the “soft” side of the Velcro is the “female” side. It is placed on the item that stays put while the bristly side, the “male” side, is placed on the item that moves – yup, the female is soft and stays at home while the bristly male roams. Terrible, right? But to this day I remember. )
The final step was just to write a little on the poster board and Charlie’s personalized picture schedule was officially born:
Charlie loves his picture schedule. We try to remember each night to prepare the schedule for the next day. Charlie finds the correct day and date and then constructs his desired schedule.
This project, though fairly time-intensive, was inexpensive.
- Poster board: free
- Taking the photos and printing them out: free
- Laminating the images: I can’t remember exactly, but it was about $10
- Velcro: about $2
Grand total: roughly $12
For less than $15 we have a custom picture schedule and we can add to it as Charlie’s interests change.
I should note that though the picture schedule has really helped Charlie, what has helped Charlie’s transition to preschool even more has been Mark’s decision to stay with Charlie for about 15 minutes after they arrive at school. Charlie adores that and seems to be really comforted by it.