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Picture Timeline (for Child Who Needs High Structure)

Create a Picture Timeline for a Child Who Needs High Structure

Children who have lived in institutions need high structure. 

And I am very, very random. That means I am not great at structure. 

But now I have a daughter who has been told her entire life what would come next, what to do next. She knew what would happen next. Every day. Our first few days home she didn't know what to do. 

Couple that with my random. Terrifying.

After brainstorming and discussing some coming-home-issues with another mom who has also adopted recently, I decided to try a picture timeline.

First, I took photos of everything that I wanted on her timeline (personal hygeine, chores, meals, and activities). Then I printed them.

Picture Timeline (a schedule for pre-readers)

I laminated them with my handy-dandy laminator (that I've had for 7 years now!).

Picture Timeline (a schedule for pre-readers)

I cut them apart and added magnet to the back of each one.

Picture Timeline (a schedule for pre-readers)

Every morning, I stick the activities to the front of the refrigerator in the order that Luci needs to do them.

Picture Timeline (a schedule for pre-readers)

Hopefully, as time goes on, Luci will be able to help me structure her day. But for right now, it's something that she needs me to do for her. We've been using the timeline for over a month, and things have gone better than I anticipated. 

It is good for her to be able to see her day in pictures. And it is good for me to be able to change things each day. I will say that I still do a lot of micromanaging, but it's less than it was before the timeline. I can also tell that my girl feels safer knowing what's coming next.

Feel free to ask me questions as I know I haven't covered everything in this short post. I am adding activity examples below so you can grab and snag some ideas, if you so desire.

Things Done Daily

  • Make Bed
  • Get Dressed
  • Eat Breakfast/Lunch
  • Brush Teeth
  • 3 Books with Simon
  • 4 Books with Elijah
  • 5 Books with Mom
  • Puzzles
  • 1 Chore
  • 1 Learning Video

*other activities (see ideas below)

I have cards with various numbers on them: 1 Puzzle, 2 Puzzles, etc. She looks at the card and then gets to go to the puzzle cabinet and choose the puzzles she'd like to do.

A few puzzles have their own special card and are not kept in the puzzle cabinet.


  • Match Socks
  • Fold Towels
  • Help Mom Cook

Sensory & Art Activities

  • Play-doh
  • Colored Rice
  • Paint a Picture (this can be fingerpaint or watercolors)
  • Shaving Cream
  • Choose and Draw an Animal from I Can Draw Animals
  • Stickers 
  • Coloring (she can choose any coloring book she wants)

Learning Activities

Activities for Preschool

Free Play Activities

  • Dolls
  • Kitchen
  • Kid K'nex Blocks
  • Duplo/LEGO
  • Go to the Park
  • Sandbox Play

Timeline for Preschoolers

Apps on iPad

  • Tiny Hands: What's My Pair?
  • Tiny Hands: Sorting 2
  • Tiny Hands: Sorting 3
  • Tiny Hands: Racoon Treehouse
  • Shape Builder 
  • Candy Count
  • Aquatic Puzzle

Educational Video

Other Random (!) Cards

  • Snack Time
  • Surprise! (I can use this one for anything! Love it!)
  • Dance with Mom
  • Speech Therapy
  • Physical Therapy

5 Responses to Picture Timeline (for Child Who Needs High Structure)

  • Kelly says:

    She beautiful!! So nice that you have found something that is bringing security. :)

  • Corina says:

    What a great idea!!  I love how easy it is to change up each day and that it's helping both of you!  She is beautiful! : )

  • Jen says:

    Love this!  It would also be great to have these for choices for free time and rotate them out!  (And I LOVE those glasses!)


  • sarah says:

    Thank you Ami!  I love this and the list.  We have just come to realize that my 5 year old really needs pictures on "what to do next" and I have been having a hard time putting together a list.  I love how you made the list to be flexable (because I am a bit like you with that) but still doable without having to reprint a million things.  :)  

  • Cindy says:

    The picture timeline is so cool!  What a great idea!

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