Developing routines and using pictures as prompts


  • Picture instructions can be used at home to help your child follow a set of instructions.
  • Alongside the pictures, say consistent phrases. This repetition will help your child to learn the words and sentences. Share this with everyone at home.
  • The adults will say:

  • ‘Turn on the tap
    and make your hands wet.’

    little boy washing hands


    ‘Rub soap on your hands.’

    child washing hands

    ‘Wash the soap off your hands.’

    child washing hands 

    ‘Dry your hands.’

    child drying hands


  • When you use consistent language in an everyday routine, your child should be able to listen and learn more quickly.
  • Consider other everyday routines at home. You can add pictures or photographs and create picture instructions for these too!
  • Here are some ideas…

  • mother helping child put on shoes

    Getting ready to go out

    children helping lady prepare breakfast

    Meal routines

    feet of child sitting on toilet

    Using the toilet

    child splashing water in bath

    Bath time

    Top Tips to support developing routines

    a) Place the visual instructions where your child can see them and follow.

    b) Try not to have more than four pictures in a sequence.

    c) Write the phrases you are going to use underneath each picture (to remind yourself).

    d) Make sure you gain your child’s attention before speaking to them.

    e) Talk about each picture as your child follows the routine.

    f) When giving your child instructions, give them one at a time and wait for your child to complete the action.

    g) If your child finds it hard to move on from an activity, you could try signalling that a change is going to happen. One idea is singing a song when it’s time to tidy up. Make sure you use the same song for tidying up each time, so that your child knows exactly what is happening next. The more signals you can give to help prepare your child, the more confident they should feel. This will help reduce behaviour challenges caused by lack of understanding.

    Web links

    Check out these pages to find lots more information and great ideas.

  • Using visual supports at home
  • Early Years Language (an example of one Local Authority’s provision)

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    Last modified: Friday, 24 July 2020, 4:31 PM