Encouraging Independence Through Visual Systems

I have been an educator for over 10 years and I believe children learn best when being taught new skills with a hands-on approach. A reoccurring question I have asked myself during my years as an educator is, “how can I best help children to become more independent?”

I have worked with a variety of age groups and at each stage of the children’s development fostering independence is a critical part of the job of an educator. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work with many other professionals who also held the same belief and attended many workshops that have inspired me and taught me new techniques to use in my programs.

Young children learn best through trial and error while working on their independent skills. As educators we also help them to work on their self-esteem. Independence and self-esteem go hand in hand when working on developing and learning new skills.

Visuals systems and aids can play an important role in early years. Using visual aids can help young children communicate their needs and concerns with adults and peers alike as well as deliver important instructions. Visuals play an important role in young child’s life because it can present children with choice and be used to develop necessary skills to enrich their receptive and expressive language. Visual aids can convey meaning through pictures but as well through corresponding written words. Using printed words along with pictures connect language to whatever is represented on the visual aid. This will help foster an important foundational skill for language and communication development.

I recently observed a self-help skill that children in my program needed extra support to master. In this case it was putting on their boots and shoes. I recalled having used visual aids with a past group which would be developmentally appropriate for my new children. The visuals seemed simple enough for young preschoolers to follow. I went online to find appropriate visuals they would be able to understand. Last time I used these visuals I had printed them in black and white but this time I opted for bright eye-catching colours to better capture the children’s attention. I printed two hands and taped them onto the wall at a child appropriate height and two feet and taped them on the floor where they would place their boots. I taught the children hand over hand to place their boots on the feet and use their hands to balance against the wall while they put their feet into their boots. I placed two sets of these visual aids in the hallway and two in the classroom.

Gradually the children learned how to use the system themselves. Some of them still occasionally ask for help but most of them use it independently. Using these visual aids have once again proven to be an effect way to communicate and promote independence and build self-esteem in young children.

Jela Vojnovic, RECE
Garderie Bernadette Child Care Centre