How to Make a Visual Calendar or TO DO Board

Introduction: How to Make a Visual Calendar or TO DO Board

A Visual Calendar is unlike a calendar that shows the days of the month. It has pictures to visually show things "To Do" in order to help communicate with people with decreased language skills, or cognitive skills. Classes on communication will state communication is a two way flow; the sender and the receiver. Sometimes the receiver cannot show or demonstrate or communicate they have received the message and thus the sender is not confident communication has happened or not. Does that mean we should not try or worse yet stop trying? We never stop trying. This is my son, I love him more than anything and I will try to engage him and make his life as happy as I can for as long as I can. The Therapists said he will lose what little speech he has gained and you should communicate with him visually and suggested a visual calendar. What's that, I said to myself? I hope to share what I have learned in hopes of answering someone else's question when told the same thing.

I want to give you some insights. The Visual Calendar is a tool to help communicate. There is no right way or wrong way to use it. What works for one person might not work for another. One person communicates with the same child differently than another. Likewise what you find that works for one child might not work for another. This is a tool and the more tools you have the better chance you have of reaching into the tool box and pulling one out that does exactly what you need it to do.

Continually engaging and attempting to have shared experience becomes daily life living with a special needs child. There are some things I want to point out that applies to children in general. They like routine. It helps them figure the world out, how they should behave, how they interact with the world to have their needs met, what is appropriate, how to have fun, and enables them to learn. One of the first things I used a visual calendar for was transitions. From playing with the ball to transitioning to the dinner table, to transitioning to the sink, to transitioning to getting ready for bed. They like to know what is happening now and what is going to happen next. It is less stressful if you know what is going to happen next instead of things just changing. Children have little control of what happens in their life. Knowing that ear drops or medicine is coming up is better than having an oral syringe shoved in your mouth and being told to swallow while you were happily playing with a ball. Not to mention less stressful for the caregiver as well. Since kids have so very little control over what happens in their life they like to have choices. Wearing clothes is not an option but picking which shirt out of two is a choice they can make on their own. Transitions, First this, Then this and presenting choices are things to keep in mind. One last thing that also applies to all kids, Keep it fun. If you're not having fun do you really think the child is?

I have used a crude visual calendar with my son for the past 4 years and have taken what worked and what I discovered I could do better and created a new one and at the same time I wanted to share so I recorded what I did in this my first Instructable.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

4 - poster boards (2 Green, 2 Red) ~$4.00
1 - Roll 2" wide clear tape, packing tape
1 - Roll 2" Blue Painters Masking tape.
1 - 5' package of Velcro sticky back ~$10.00 (Do not get Industrial)
1 - Large Black Magic Marker
Pair of Scissors
Assortment of pictures of things you do. Printed and laminated at you local Office Supply store. 4" X 6" Laminated at the supply store is going to be nice and stiff like an ID and will hold up to repeated use.

Step 2: Take Pictures, Print and Have Them Laminated at Office Supply Store.

This step I want you to understand is a continual thing. As abilities and interest change you will want to add new photo's or change old photo for new photo's.

Think about things you do during the day.
Eat Breakfast
Take vitamins or medicine
Brush Teeth
Get dressed (Shirt, Pants, Socks, Shoes)
Finger paint
Play dough
Get Mail
Walk the dog
Go to Doctor's (take a picture of the doctor or the therapist)
Take a bath
Go to Bed.
Read a Story.

There are generic images you can get but having pictures of the actual things in your life are going to be the most meaningful and have the best chance of being recognized and understood. As you use the calendar you will find yourself saying I need a picture of... so go take a picture get it printed and laminated.

Step 3: Draw Divider Lines and Labels

I found it best to use a pencil first and use the pictures printed in last step to help layout and arrange things. Before taping the sheets together I found it easier to use the magic marker for the header labels. I waited till the sheets were taped together to draw in the divider lines since I wanted them all to line up.

I got a little detailed on this but I like things to line up and look neat. The first calendar I have used for the last 4 years was white poster board with grey duct tape. Not the prettiest thing but it worked.

Here are a little of the details I worked out and then penciled in as I fitted everything in.

I wanted two sides a TO DO and an ALL DONE. Red for what needs to be done and a green(lime is what they had) for what has been done. If you noticed I have things in ALL CAPS. Probably best that my son learn all one case before learning mixed case. Maybe one day I will have a version with mixed case. God willing.

With this board I also wanted to have a transitional step between TO DO and ALL DONE for what we are currently doing. We have to eat breakfast but it is not all done while we are doing it. Although going from right to left along a row is good to show the sequence and order of things I found having a bunch of pictures can be busy to follow. Partnering with the school and therapist using First this and Then this I wanted to incorporate into this board.

Here are my measurements and how I laid things out.

I wanted the headers to be large but fit on each side. Each poster board is 22" wide All done is 7 letters and with spacing before and after and one in the middle that worked out to about 2.2" or approximately 2 1/8 inches. I made the header about two times the height of a picture or 8" inches. I made the divider line about a half of an inch and smaller divider lines for the First and Then section about a 1/4" inch. Pencil in you lines and layout your pictures and adjust things. erase your lines and then Mark in the Labels on the two headers.

You could probably use two poster boards but it is easier to make it all at once rather than add to it latter. Plus you can skip a few rows to have morning and then evening towards bottom. This is what I do since he goes to school and during weekdays I need not fill the day with activities. Note to self: I need to have a school bus picture...

Three pictures fit on the width of one board. The top half can fit about 3 rows with the header and the bottom half can fit 4 rows. We want some spacing between rows of pictures so it is not crowded and allows for easier gripping of pictures by little fingers.

The sheets at 28" tall and here is what I noted down as I penciled in things. These are not done to NASA tolerances so adjust as you need or what looks good for you.

Header 8"
Divider line 1/2"
Spacing 1 - 1.2"
Row for Picture 4" actually you will want about a 1/16 of an inch laminate boarder on your pictures so slightly more than 4"

Step 4: Tape Poster Boards Together and Mark in Divider Lines and Other Labels

The blue painters masking tape is forgiving and will allow you to pull it back off without ripping the board. This is good since getting the sheets to line up can be hit or miss. I think I did the two top halves together and then the bottom halves and the the top to the bottom.

Step 5: Place Clear Tape for Rows and Velcro

I was first worried that pulling off a picture the Velcro would hold and the paper would tear so on my original board I had rows of grey duct tape. It worked great however it looked horrendous. So the clear packing tape is used to lay down where the pictures will be and the Velcro is stuck to that. The soft side of the Velcro goes on the board. This allows you to use the pictures with the hooks on things like a Felt board. It is also possible to use felt patches to glue o the tape instead of using the Velcro. On my original board I had 3/4" X 3/4" squares on the back of the pictures and on the board. The problem with this is although I could like the picture up with the board and get it to stick the person the board was intended for could never get it lined up. So this time around I wanted to give a large spot on the board to stick each picture. So on the back of the picture is still the 3/4" X 3/4" square but on the row on the board I did 1.5" X 1.5" squares. This of course used up the soft side and I found that 5' of Velcro is not enough for all the rows and it would be more like 11 feet. Thus the idea of gluing felt onto the board instead.

Word of caution here. The clear tape is not at all forgiving and once laid doesn't pull back up without tearing the paper. Take your time and either practice on a cardboard box to get a long strip laid without wrinkles first before trying on the Calendar or be very very patient and meticulous.

Step 6: Hang on Wall and Start to Use It.

I used the blue tape again for this step. It is forgiving. If you decide you want to move the board to another location it is fairly easy to pull off without destroying the wall paint and will allow to be reused on the new location.

I turned the board over laid out a long strip (sticky side up) then lined the board up about half the width of the tape and set it down. picked it up and stuck it to the wall. the bottom of the board is right to the top of the floor runners.

As I said I used the pictures as transitions. I would grab a picture and wave it in front of Alan and get his attention and say we need to "Eat Breakfast" when done and he goes to jump up and run away I would say. "Let's check the TO DO board." Lead him over to the board and show him the Breakfast picture. "All Done" and put it on that side. "What do we have to do?" grab the next picture then show it to him as the next thing we are transitioning to do.

Ideally I would love for him to grab the next picture and choose from what is on the board and then put it on the ALL DONE side. It is enough for me to grab two pictures and have him grab one out of my hand and try to put on the board.

Hope this helps. For more info about Alan and The Andyman visit

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