Baby's First Year · Parenting

A picture is worth a thousand words

Parent and child looking and pointing at pictures together

A child may find it hard to cope with new situations, routines, or experiences because they do not know what to expect. When this happens, it is common for children to have breakdowns and tantrums.

So, how can we prevent these behaviours from happening? How can we help our child understand our expectations?

By using pictures!!

Pictures can be used to help a child understand language, communicate, and help regulate emotions and behaviours. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I use pictures in all of my sessions, and I encourage families to use pictures at home.

When we use pictures to support language, they can:

  • Help a child learn new words- the child can see the picture and help understand the word
  • Organize the day and help establish routines – this helps a child understand and process information
  • Help predict upcoming activities/ routines
  • Help with changes between activities and to redirect a child
  • Help children understand change and new expectations, which can reduce stress, frustrations and anxiety
  • Increase your child’s flexibility
  • Help promote and support independence

It’s important to use pictures that are clear and that your child will understand. You can use pictures from the internet, photos that you have taken, or pictures that you have cut out of flyers/pamphlets. Add a single word (or a couple of words) to label the picture.

To help with changes to routines, I recommend using:

Break down specific activities- whether you are breaking down the schedule for the week, the day, or the steps within a specific activity. Use visuals to highlight what activities are happening, and the order of the events.

Sample of a visual showing the order of events

Provide a sequence of 2 events.

Sample of a visual showing a sequence of two events

Help prepare your child for new experiences; to learn positive behaviour; and to teach a new skill or learn a new routine.

Once you’ve created your visual, show it to your child. Point to each picture and say the label on the picture to teach your child that the picture shows the activity or event that you are going to do.

Remember, we all use visuals to help organize and structure our lives. When words and images are combined together, the message becomes more memorable and is easier to understand.

If you have concerns about your preschool child’s communication milestones, please contact Early Abilities or fill out the self-referral form to access our speech and language services.

As of April 1, 2022 the Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs have moved from Toronto Public Health (Early Abilities) to Surrey Place. To register for services or learn more about the programs, please visit Surrey Place or call 416-925-5141.

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