Visual tools are amazing for communicating and collaborating with kids. Studies show that visuals help children across a range of factors, including reading comprehension, student achievement, thinking and learning skills, and retention of information. XPLANE parents also have lots of anecdotal evidence that visual thinking is very effective in solving behavioral and social challenges at home.

We wanted to explore how people who excel at visual thinking in the work environment bring that mindset to the home front. On May 1 we explored this topic with the community at our public Visual Thinking School. One of the most fun exercises of the day was learning how we each use visual thinking with our kids, and mapping those tools to different developmental stages. Here are 25 ideas we thought were pretty cool, arranged roughly by appropriateness for the youngest up to the oldest kids.


  1. Sign language for pre-linguistic children
  2. Photo array of friends and relatives frequently mentioned but not frequently seen
  3. Visual routine guides for morning and nighttime
  4. Visual cues to show instead of tell. For example, if “bribing” a child with a reward like playing with their soccer ball, show them the ball instead of verbally referencing it
  5. Visual labels on bins and drawers
  6. Card deck of common and special activities to collaboratively puzzle together an agenda for the day or week
  7. Visual chore chart or, especially for younger children, physical blocks that can be moved when the task is complete
  8. Neighborhood map that shows home, daycare, restaurant, supermarket, etc.
  9. Drawing fears and emotions. If angry, draw how it feels. If afraid of the monster under the bed, draw what it looks like.
  10. Visual packing list, showing how many of each item is needed
  11. Visual diary of a family holiday, drawn each evening as an opportunity for all to reflect on the day’s adventures
  12. Whiteboard in the bedroom to encourage kids to explain ideas visually
  13. When gathered for a holiday, make a holiday hat containing cards on which each kid may draw an activity they would like to do. Draw cards one at a time as needed to keep the holidays flowing.
  14. Idea boards, such as each family member drawing an idea for vacation destination
  15. Play visual games like Memory, Battleship, Pictionary, Cranium, etc.
  16. Family calendar with icons and sketches for activities
  17. Family vision map to instill a sense of common purpose
  18. Keep plenty of supplies around to encourage creative expression
  19. Draw vacation routes or destinations right on a map
  20. Clear containers dividing money to teach savings habits and visually see progress toward goals
  21. Post-ups for challenging family discussions to make sure all voices are heard
  22. After a sports game or other activity, encourage constructive feedback through a Plus/Delta poster
  23. Visual proposals, such as a diagram of desired bedroom changes, help teach older children to negotiate successfully for their ideas
  24. Future state drawing for a high school student overwhelmed by college decision. Encourage her to worked backward from where she would like to be in 10 years.
  25. Break down college selection by attributes and criteria

What parenting techniques do you use that harness the power of visuals?