Central Message AreaWhat if you could create one small area in your home that would support transitions, help build time management, planning, and executive function skills, help with routines, and basically support every single member of the family? Sounds pretty good huh?! Well, you can have all this with the one thing every sensory family should have – The Central Message Area. Forget back-to-school, this will support you and your family each and every week all year long.

Since this is not back-to-school specific, this is a great system to get into place now so you have time to adjust / tweak before the school year is in full gear.

THE CENTRAL MESSAGE AREA

KEY POINTS

– LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: This needs to be a central location in the house. For most of us, it will be the mudroom, the kitchen, or a family room that is close to the kitchen.
– FUNCTION COMES FIRST: Here we need let go of keeping things tucked away and hidden. This needs to be out in the open, visual, and have pieces that you can touch and move around. Life is messy – totally ok if this is alittle messy too.
– IT NEEDS A NAME: Call it whatever works for your family – Family Planning Center, Central Message Area or whatever works for you.
– HAVE PIECES FOR EVERYONE: Include planning tools for everyone – a monthly planner for parents, a weekly calendar for the family, activity schedules, chore cards, morning / evening routines are a few examples of what you might have here.
– SET A REGULAR PLANNING TIME: This is the key to teaching planning skills to our kids. Depending on age of kids, we need to set a daily / weekly planning time where calendars get mapped out and plan is reviewed. Our kids will have a much better understanding of how to plan their week in high school when they have participated in a weekly planning session in their younger years.

***BREAK IT DOWN – So not to overwhelm your sensory child (or yourself with a big project) – break this project into smaller pieces. 1) Monthly / Weekly Calendar; 2) Activity / Blank Board Section; 3) Chore / Routines Section.

GENERAL LAYOUT

The central message area will look different for every family but can have a few core components. Here’s an example of a general layout:

– TOP SECTION: Parent Planner – a monthly planner for parents to pencil in important dates / work commitments / travel etc. This also allows kids to see us take the big (a month) and break it into smaller pieces when we fill out the weekly whiteboard calendar (see below).
– MIDDLE SECTION: A Weekly Whiteboard Calendar – I LOVE the time frame of a week. It’s not too much time but not too little, works off a school schedule that is intuitive to most kids, and for younger kids, we can work off of yesterday, today, tomorrow schedule.
– LOWER SECTION: Activity Calendars for after-school planning.
– LOWEST SECTION: A plain magnetic white board to hang misc. items, clip clear folders to for school papers, or just as a doodle board for younger kids.
– LEFT WALL SECTION: This section can hold Evening / Morning Routines, Chore charts / checklists – laminate or put in sheet protectors or on clipboards.

SUPPLIES

– A monthly calendar – I used the At-A-Glance Calendar. http://www.staples.com/2014-2015-AT-A-GLANCE-Academic-Madrid-Desk-Pad-15-inch-x/product_297827
– A weekly magnetic whiteboard calendar – Here’s a great one from Board Dudes that includes a cork strip at bottom. http://boarddudes.com/product/aluminum-framed-magnetic-dry-erase-combo-board-3/
– A cork board / magnetic board to hold activity schedules. The one used here was a Board Dudes board from Target. http://www.target.com/p/the-board-dudes-framed-corkboard-17in-x-23in/-/
– Clipboards – to make routines / chore lists portable. Example of one from Walmart – http://www.walmart.com/ip/CLIPBOARD-PLAS-9X12-CR/32531960
– 3M Command Temporary Hooks – for temporary hanging that won’t damage walls. Great for hanging routines, chores etc. http://www.command.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/NACommand/Command/Products/Catalog/~/Command-Medium-Hooks?N=3294529207+3294773690+5924736&rt=rud
– Laminating machine or page protectors to keep routines / checklists looking new. Page protectors from Staples (you could hang these using the hole punch tabs on left margin of page protector). http://www.staples.com/Staples-Secure-Top-Sheet-Protectors/product_392759
– Labels for each section so everyone knows where to go / how to use it.
– Make space for fun! Be sure to hang a few funny pictures, quotes your family likes, or other fun things that are meaningful to your family.

Start now with the simple but super powerful Central Message Area. This will most definitely give your family a place to go to see what’s coming, to help manage daily expectations, and to see what fun things you have to look forward to. It will also help you, master family planner, in more ways than you know! Small Changes for more Peaceful Days ~

Labels CMALabels CMA
CMA Routines

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