August 25, 2012

Using Task Boards with Youngsters

A question I hear all the time is - ‘how can we use the task board with our younger kids, who can’t read or write yet?’

Being a parent to young kids is exactly the same as with the older kids. The parents try to get the child to do his tasks, stick to a routine, keep boundaries, have a good connection with with them, all while keeping nagging down to a minimum.
The answer I give all the time is surprisingly simple.

‘Use pictures’

All the other rules apply as usual.

When they get a ‘wait, what?’ look on their faces, I explain a bit further.
     Put the tasks on the board to visualise them
     Choose your next task
     Gather every day to talk about the tasks

(There’s lots more in the book, and previous blog posts, just hunt around)

So in fact, most of the tasks can be shown in picture format anyway. It might even be better this way for all the family :)

So how to go about this:

1.    Prepare the child to a fun adventure.Have fun with the kids! I mean, you’re going to be wandering around the house snapping pictures with them (and they’ll want to take some pictures themselves if they are anything like my kids). What could be more fun?

2.    Snap pictures of your kids doing their routine tasks. Brushing their teeth, waking up in the morning. Let them snap pictures of you doing the same. Explain each task as the kid is doing it.

3. This is an awesome opportunity to do things together, and to set expectations.

4.    Now, ask your kids to put the pictures up on the task board (Some velcro on the back of each one and the board itself is probably best). Make sure to refer to each task as you place it on the board - for example, ‘and here you are, brushing your teeth’.

Note that you can use the family task board, a personal task board in the child room or even a personal book (if they are very small children).

5.    Be sure to keep it simple. They are kids, after all. Don’t use too many pictures, or ones that it isn’t clear what the child has to do.

OK, so you’ve got the pictures up on the board. Now what?

1.    You and your kids choose a series of pictures (tasks, remember?) to do the next day. Ask your children what they are going to do when they wake up.

2.    Put the pictures on the board - make sure the order is clear.

3.    In the morning, remind your kids that the board and pictures is there, and go to the board with them.

4.    Go through the tasks as shown by the pictures, and move the completed pictures into the ‘Done’ column.

5.    When your kids have completed all the tasks, let them know they’ve done an excellent job - they deserve it :)

6.    Gather round the board the next evening, and repeat.

Wasn’t that great?

Of course, what the pictures show is entirely up to you. I prefer showing my kids actually performing the action they are supposed to - brushing their teeth, as opposed to just showing the toothbrush - as it is the actual task he needs to follow through.

Plus, it’s tremendous fun!
It’s the fun of snapping the photos, it’s the fun of creating the board, it’s the fun of seeing how

things are getting done without focusing on what isn’t done. It’s the fun of actually talking with your kids and having a dialogue.

Remember - when your kids see what they need to do, and know that we are there to help if needed, and talking about it, they find it much easier. In time, these tasks will become part of the routine, and you can move on to others!

And as I said before - using photos and pictures works wonders with the older kids as well. After all, visualization makes things so much easier to understand!

Want to learn more about task boards, kids, and how to get things done around the house? Get Agile Kids today!

Further read from this blog:

August 18, 2012

PDCA psychology – Continues improvement (and kids video games)

True PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about the ability to respond to change,  constantly improve, gain sense of ability, change and grow while making forward progress. How can we use it to the benefits of the family?

My kids are now old enough to play video games. This has, of course, got me wondering about the benefits of playing those games, if there are even any benefits.  Well, they have SOME benefit. When you fail, or experience success, or need to get things done to win the game (remember this post?). It’s an excellent example, of what a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about.

Well, one day I came across this awesome blog post by Mike Langlois, Failing Better .
There is another aspect of failing in video games that I think we need to pay attention to, and that is the role of autonomy. ….The reality is that mastering challenges and fun failure creates a feeling of optimism, which neurologically and emotionally improves our ability to learn in the future. If we think we are capable of solving a problem, we will keep at it. Therefore, we need to foster a sense of autonomy in learning. The minute we start talking about “my special needs child,” we are taking away their autonomy…The less we stigmatize failure, the more we encourage autonomy and optimism. Autonomy and optimism make you a better learner, a better collaborator, and a better worker. Personally I think the world could use a lot more of that.” Mike Langlois

And I will argue the additional point, that those video games allow the kids to fail over and over again, forcing them to re-plan their steps and try again. Gain more experience and try yet again. Failing again and again just means that you learn how to do it better next time. And each time you re-start the level, you gain in abilities, or power, or wealth. You start from a relatively easy stage and advance to harder and harder stages, journeying through a series of failures, successes and learning.

And so, thinking of the video gaming experience, I think it’s an excellent example, of what a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about. The ability to constantly improve, gain sense of ability, change and grow while making forward progress.
Lets leave the kids playing their video games, and learn a bit about PDCA, and how we can use it in the family.

According to Wikipedia, PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. ”
When do we use it?
     As a model for continuous improvement.
     When we wish to implement any change
     When we wish to improve

Plan to do something → Do it →Check and see how it went , Change whatever you think is needed to change →And Act accordingly to the changes.
Then do it again.

Take a task (a small one) and place it on the board:

(I will add the F - for Fun)

When we start using PDCA more and more, it becomes second nature to us. Just like a child playing a video game, failing and checking our steps is something that comes without thinking.
It’s a continues improvement mindset approach.
When done right, I believe that PDCA keeps us in a “capable “mode. It challenges us to solve problems in relatively small portions, allowing us to experience small failures and experience a change to success.
By the way, ‘Failure’ isn’t a bad word; it’s something that when experienced in small doses can be manageable and helps us progress and achieve. ‘Success’, of course, is a great feeling - and we can use this feeling when we make small changes. We don’t need to wait for the big bang process to be completed.

PDCA, when done right, helps us experience controlled success and failures, and most important, helps us feel capable, driven from our experience and the effort we put into ‘doing’. This fuels us to continue, to try solve and change and grow. 
Of course, just as anything else unfamiliar, the theory looks very strict. We just need to experience it, adapt it to fit our needs and improve on it.

So , what is the best way to get into a continues improvement using PDCA?
1.    Don’t forget to have fun while changing .
‘Fun’ usually comes last in my checklists. Not this time. Having fun helps fail better and increase the ability to solve problems now and in the future.
2.    When something is interesting it’s also easier to solve.
PDCA is like a puzzle, so treat it as such. It should be interesting and related to what we want to do. Like in puzzle, we need to try sometimes few times before we figure it out.
3.    Encouraged Autonomy.
In a video/PC game, you start from the easy stuff. You gain experience by failing and retrying (do-check), you learn from your mistakes and try again. Sometimes (most of the times!!!) you become better… even awesome in what you do. But the player manages to do it since he can use the autonomy of the game. This is a very important step in PDCA. Have the autonomy to change, learn and adapt. No change will happen if you aren’t allowed to think by yourself, fail, make mistakes and try again.
4.    Welcome failure as a step toward success.
Don’t expect to succeed from step one. Encourage your family to check things out and try again and again.
5.    Deal with small steps, one thing at a time.
There’s no need to plan, do check and act over massive projects. It doesn’t need to be a long cycle. It can be a daily process of planning, doing, checking and acting. Divide big changes into smaller practical tasks. Pick up one at a time and go with it.
6.    Check – means communicate, talk it over, discuss.
Ask what went well and what can we do differently. You can use the daily gathering for that.
7.    Ease yourself out of your comfort zone.
Do one small thing each day to challenge yourself. Feel uncomfortable once a day, check it out, learn and adapt the next day.
8.    Learning is a curve.
We learn better from experience.
9.    Appreciate the effort of doing.
 It is highly important especially when you don’t succeed.
10.  Visualize.
As always, when you can see the change, it increases the probability of changing and doing.

By the way, to visualize, I take a small enough task , using  sticky notes, place them on the board, run them visually into the PDCA process,  and until people don’t even see the process anymore it’s so innate, I mark the change visually on the board.

Well, I’m off to play some video games. Can’t let my boys grow TOO complacent :)
To read more:
     The steps in each successive PDCA cycle are ( 9001 Quality Management Systems - Requirements. ISO. 2008. pp. vi.)

August 15, 2012

Going back to school schedule

Remember when your kids spent the last month following a daily schedule, going to bed early, getting up early, and setting aside time for their homework?

You don’t?

The holidays might have had something to do with that :) Kids tend to sleep late, lose track of time, have no schedule whatsoever - but they’re kids. They are allowed to.

But school is just around the corner, and you need to start getting back on track.Going to bed at normal hours, setting a daily schedule, and so on.


How do we do that?

1.      First, we’ll refresh the basic rules.
a.      Bed time.
b.      TV schedule.
c.       Homework place and schedule.
d.      And of course, any other rules that matter.

2.      Gradually get back to track :
a.      Pick a few issues to start changing, and practice them.
b.      Retrospect each day over the results and select the next issues.
c.       Insist on getting tasks done.

I’ll finish this post with some practical tips of getting kids ready to go back to school - Enjoy!