Teaching Children Home & School Routines

  • Situation

    The Watson Institute has received a number of questions from parents searching for resources to teach their child how to complete various tasks with greater independence or how to set routines for their child. For example, one parent noted that her daughter had difficulty staying focused while getting ready for bed in the evenings. She was looking for a resource to help her stay focused and be more independent. Another parent asked about teaching their son to brush his teeth before bedtime and incorporate that into his daily morning and evening routines.


    We’ve also heard from educators looking for ways to support their students with exceptionalities who may have difficulty following along during activities or particular classes.

  • Summary

    A mini-schedule provides a picture or word sequence for each step of a routine or task. This can promote independence for your child and decrease the amount of assistance or prompting you need to give. The type of mini-schedule you use (whether visual or text/checklist) will be dependent upon your child or student’s needs and preferences.


    Identify a motivator/reinforcer that your child/student may have or do after they have completed the mini-schedule. Add the motivator to the schedule as a reminder of what they will be working towards.

  • Definition

    A mini-schedule is a visual schedule or visual sequencing of events for a short period of time, NOT an entire day. It can be in picture, object, word, or numeral format. A mini-schedule’s purpose is to give a sense of time and when an activity will end.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Ability to understand pictures, words, and objects. Ability to understand delayed gratification/rewards. Knowledge of the steps of the class or activity. Materials to depict the steps in picture or written format. Materials to model the project. Knowledge of the steps of the class or activity.

  • Process

    1. Identify the steps for the task at hand; i.e. brushing your teeth or participating in physical education class.
    2. Gather the materials to make the visual representations of each step if you are using a visual mini-schedule.
    3. Make the schedule using pictures/words/objects.
    4. Present it to your child/student.
    5. Model and demonstrate how to use the mini-schedule during the task.
    6. Positively reinforce the child for using the mini-schedule with their preferred item or activity.
    7. Over time you can work with your child/student to promote independence by prompting them less and using fewer verbal supports. Let them follow the pictures or text on the schedule with less prompting.
  • Documents and Related Resources

    website about visual schedules

    setbc.org (website resource for pictures/icons)

    do2learn.com (website – resource for pictures)

    Mini-Schedule Gym (image)


    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.