Save Your Sanity: Make a Visual!

“How many times do I have to tell you…”
“We do the same thing EVERY morning! Why is getting out the door so hard?”
“It’s time to go to sleep. No more books, no more drinks, no more nothing!”

Do you find yourself saying the same things to your kids every day? Does having to repeat yourself (over and over and over…) fill you with frustration? Do you wish your kids would just listen?

As an early childhood educator, repeating myself is part of my job description. As a mom, it’s almost my primary role. Reminders to wash hands, solve problems with words, and put toys where they go are just the tip of the iceberg. Young kids require almost countless chances to practice a skill before they master it, and expecting otherwise is just setting yourself for disappointment. However, there are days when I think I might lose my mind if I have to utter the words, “Put your shoes on!” one. more. time.

There is a solution. If you find yourself repeating the same words over and over, and doing so makes you want to burst into flames, it is time to make a change. It is time to make a visual. A visual is just like it sounds: an image, representation, or display that is used to illustrate a message. Take a bit of time to make something to illustrate whatever it is that your kids need to hear repeatedly, and give yourself a break from saying it. Sure, you’ll still have to direct their attention to the visual or remind them to do what it says occasionally, but eliminating the necessity of repeating every single step is a total game changer, and pointing to a sign is way less rage-inducing. I promise.

visual title pic

Visuals for Parenting:

Routines –

Choose visuals that can help you with common daily routines, such as bedtime, the morning rush, bathroom jobs, or a daily schedule. Think of the time of day that is your biggest struggle, and consider how a visual might offer support to both you and your kids to keep expectations clear.

Don’t include “Get out of bed and ask for something 17 times.”


visual 8
No skill here…just a whiteboard and some crappy drawings! Customize it for different days, if you need to.


visual 11
A schedule of the day’s events helps a child know what to expect, improving their ability to tolerate less favorite parts of the day, knowing that their favorite parts are coming up, too.

Reminders –

A well-placed visual cue can trigger your kiddo to remember those things that you’ve nagged them about for months years. If nothing else, just print off a bunch of selfies of your best Mom Look and stick them all over your house.

visual 4
I can think of about 673 different uses for this one.


visual 6
Please don’t tell me you’re bored again!


visual 9
Boredom Busters! Make a list of fun choices for those times when your kids need some activity inspiration.


Chore Charts: the ultimate boredom buster!

Behavior –

It’s hard to teach your kids to be kind to each other by shouting “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER!?” If you’re tired of saying it, chances are your kids are tired of hearing it. Support their positive behavior by giving them tools to help them remember.

visual 1
Empower your kids to know their options when siblings conflicts inevitably arise.


visual 2 collage
Learning the difference between hurtful hands and gentle touches.


visual 10
Speak with love, touch with love, listen with love.

Philosophy –

Children aren’t the only ones who need visuals. Make one just for yourself. Whether you use a framed print, a wall stencil, wooden or metal word art, or even just a scribbled note on a chalkboard, find a way to speak truth to yourself in a needed area of your home and life. Choose a mantra, your favorite quote, or just one word, and place it in a conspicuous place to remind yourself in times of high stress what really matters.

Original Art by Vanilla Beans and Daydreams

The possibilities are endless here. Customize your visuals for the age of your kids, the season of life you are in, and your current priorities. Change it up as your needs change. Once your kids have mastered their bedtime routine and no longer need that visual, think of a new area of life that they could practice taking responsibility for. Remember, not only are you saving your own sanity from not having to repeat yourself quite so much, but you’re offering your children tools for managing their time and taking responsibility for their own actions. Without relying on an adult to scold them into compliance, your kids can learn to enjoy the freedom and confidence that comes from self-direction and personal accomplishment.

(And if they don’t, at least you had fun coloring with markers and using a laminator.)

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  1. After yelling at our two older ones about the morning routine for months we finally had them each make their own visuals to keep in their rooms! Our mornings are So. Much. Better.

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