I See! Using Visual Aids in a Toddler Classroom
Keep it Simple
Post visual aids in important places around your classroom to decrease the amount of confusion and chaos that toddlers sometimes experience. While pictures and posters can sometimes be very helpful, you need to be careful to only use what is necessary to avoid overstimulating your toddler class. Pay close attention to the areas in your classroom you think would benefit from a few visual aids and try using them. If they do help, keep them up. If they cause more confusion than necessary, consider removing them until the children are ready to use them. There are several places around the classroom I personally find visual aids to be very beneficial.
The Daily Schedule
Most toddlers will not function well in an environment where there are lots of surprises. Keep this in mind when you plan your toddler curriculum and daily schedule. Most toddlers will thrive on consistency and therefore, you should attempt to keep your daily schedule close to the same each day.
There are several different types of daily schedule reminders available for purchase through classroom or school supply companies and parent-teacher stores. Most list the activities the children will participate in that day, as well as picture cues for children to interpret. The picture cues are more important than the words in a toddler classroom, so be sure to inspect the product before you buy it for your classroom. Be sure the pictures are clear and toddler friendly, and coincide with the types of activities you will be offering in your classroom.
You can also choose to make your own daily schedule reminder. Take pictures of children participating in their daily activities such as eating a snack, playing outdoors, listening to a story and playing in each learning center. Consider enlarging the pictures to at least an 8x10 size and using them in your own, teacher-made "What Will We Do Today?" poster. Children will enjoy seeing pictures of themselves in the classroom and will be able to recall the activities that go with the pictures because they have experienced them exactly as they are shown in the pictures.
Use photos to separate children's personal belongings in your classroom. Purchase these in a school supply store or catalog and personalize them for your classroom. These sturdy tags with photographs will help children understand where to store their personal belongings, such as coats and backpacks, while they are at school.
If you assign children to a particular seat during lunch or snack, try using these photographic visual aids to label chairs or spaces at the table. Consider labeling things like naptime cots, sippy cups and other single user items using this method, too. These simple visual aids will assist children in finding an item's correct owner, as well as help them identify their own belongings. These tags can also be used to take a daily attendance. Used in this manner, they may also help toddlers identify and name their friends.
Consider purchasing a set of center labels from a teacher supply store or catalog. These handy signs will help you separate your classroom into learning centers and help toddlers understand the boundaries of these centers. If you are dissatisfied with the selection of center labels available for purchase, consider creating your own.
Take pictures of each learning center in your classroom, either while children are present and playing, or when the center is cleaned up and empty. Consider enlarging the pictures and displaying them on a sheet of brightly colored construction paper for visibility. Hang the photos in the learning centers. Not only will this help children learn the boundaries of the centers, but they can consult the photo when cleaning up if they are unsure where an item is to be placed.
In addition to labeling the centers, you may also consider labeling each individual toy bin. You can purchase a set of adhesive tags that attach directly to each toy bin and can be personalized with a picture or drawing of the toys that belong inside. Simple visual aids such as this one will help tremendously when it is time for toddlers to assist in clean-up time!
Try making a three step photo story to hang near the hand washing sink. One picture will show a hand turning on the water, the next picture will be soapy hands under the running water, and the last photo or picture will be the hands drying off with a paper towel. Simple fixes like this will help toddlers understand what is expected of them in the classroom, as well as what they can expect while in your class.