Children with Disabilities

Visual Supports for Infants and Toddlers

Understanding the expectations of a learning environment, what to do, or what will happen next can increase a child’s participation and engagement in activities, routines, and interactions. Visual supports present key information in a way that helps children understand and use it. They can also be used to help increase participation and learning for infants and toddlers. However, it is important to consider a child’s development when using visual supports with this age group.

The development of symbolic thought is an important developmental process in early childhood. Symbolic thought, also referred to as symbolic representation, is the use of symbols, such as words or images, to represent objects and events in the world. Development of this skill begins in infancy, with true symbolic thought usually developing between 16 to 24 months.

Symbolic thought is important to a child’s understanding of visual supports. Visuals are symbols used to represent objects or behaviors. For a visual support to help increase a child’s understanding of their environment, they need to recognize the symbol. Staff can best support a child by intentionally matching the format — or type — of the visual support to the child’s developmental level.

Explore this special collection of visual supports that was designed with young children between the ages of 16 to 36 months in mind. They can be printed and used immediately to support young children's development and learning. Each visual support includes a guide that explains what the support is, why it might be used, and how to make and use it to support infants and toddlers in your learning environment.