Sequencing is an important executive function. It is a foundation skill that children must develop before they can move on to more complex functions. More on that in a bit.
Sequencing is how we put our thoughts and our world in order. We have to sequence not only the tasks we do every day, but also letters, numbers, sentences and more.
Sequencing is the ability to logically order events, images, thoughts, and actions. If a child lacks sequencing skills, it will affect many other areas including math, reading, storytelling/writing, sentence structure, life skills and more.
Evaluations for Sequencing Issues or Lack of Skills
It is important to have a qualified professional evaluate your child. The child’s lack of sequencing skills can be due to a number of things. It might be language development, executive functioning, ADHD (focus and attention), processing or motor planning, to name a few.
Depending on your child’s age, start with your teacher or pediatrician. These evaluations can be done by Developmental Pediatricians, but it’s also not uncommon for someone such as an OT, SLP, special education teacher or psychologist to do them. The results of an evaluation should give you guidance on how to proceed further. It is rare for a child to only have skill deficits in one area such as sequencing, and not other areas.
The evaluation given will depend on your child’s age and abilities. It may involve guided play with the child, 1:1 interaction including storytelling with leading questions and other measures.
It is essential, if you think your child is struggling with sequencing that you address it as early as possible. When children cannot put their world in order, it can cause meltdowns due to overload and frustration.
The good news is that once a need is identified, it is easy to incorporate teaching and practice into the child’s day. We use sequencing skills all day, every day in our lives. From the time we wake up and get ready to leave, to reading, to preparing a meal, or feeding our pets…we are always following a sequence. Many opportunities for practice!
Sequencing Seat Work
Teachers and therapists refer to some work with kids as “seat work.” That is, the child and the adult are sitting at a table or on the floor together, doing specific work toward specific goals.
Many times, sequencing pictures or sequencing toys are used. This allows for the child to focus only on the task in front of them, rather than competing sensory input when trying to do it in real-time real-life activities.
My point being: In your child’s development, both are appropriate. There are times when you may want to sit with your child and a sequencing book or pictures, and talk about sequencing. And, there may be times when you work these exercises and practice into your every day lives.
Sequencing Every Day
Using words such as first, second, third, next, then, before, after, and finally with your child in discussions about daily activities can help them build their understanding. You can use and teach your child these words in everyday conversations.
As your child gets dressed for school, you can also narrate their tasks: “First you put on your coat. Then you pick up your backpack. Now, we are ready to go to school so next we will walk to the bus stop.”
Many activities in daily life can provide opportunities to practice sequencing as well as vocabulary words.
For example, driving in the car, you spot a food delivery person on a bike or in a car. You can ask questions like “Where do you think he came from? Where do you think he is doing? What will he do once he gets there? What do you think that family will do once they receive their food?”
You’re asking your child to put together a sequence of events, but all you’re doing is sitting at a stop light. Heck, you can even use the stoplight! Green, yellow, red is a widely recognized and used sequence.
Sequencing, First and Last
Depending on your child’s age and ability, you want to start simple. Use a First and Last sequence or story to tell, rather than a complex recipe. Start with 2, then 3 steps and so on.
You can also start with preferred items, books, pictures and toys to work on sequencing. Let’s face it–those colored blocks that I provided in my graphic? Most kids will find those boring.
But your child has a preferred toy, do you have it in different sizes? I think we have about 8 different sizes of Count von Count dolls. We could work on lining them up by size, which is sequencing. That would hold my child’s interest much better than wooden pegs.
Sequencing Story Pictures
It’s not always necessary to purchase new items to work on sequencing with your child. And, many therapists prefer to work within the child’s natural environment.
But in the event that you are looking to purchase something, here are some affordable options.
Free and Printable Sequencing Pictures
There are many options for finding sequencing pictures to print at home. There are even apps. Here are a few basic sequencing pictures or printables to get you started.first_next_then_boards
First, try TeachersPayTeachers. Teachers come up with the greatest stuff! And I’d rather support them instead of corporate curriculum printer.
Next, consider the free apps for sequencing that are available. I’ve highlighted a few below, including one for life skills.
Last, let me share a few sequencing toys. I’m not sharing sequencing books, because really, every story book has a sequence. Every book has a beginning, middle and end.
As far as choosing books that teach sequencing, stick to the child’s preferred content. You can always ask the leading questions about any story.
Here are some toys designed specifically to practice sequencing skills.
I hope this help you help your child.
Sequencing vs Executive Functioning
Ooops! Almost forgot! In the first paragraph, I said, “It is a foundation skill that children must develop before they can move on to more complex functions. More on that in a bit.”
So here’s my point. You cannot make a fried egg without following a sequence. Right? I won’t bore you with the steps, but mentally, most of us can plan it out. If we mix up the steps, we could end up with a cold, runny egg on a hot stove without a frying pan.
But, the more complex function is getting the fried egg, juice, bacon and toast to all be completed at the same time. Heck, I’ve been doing it for decades and sometimes I don’t get it right.
My issue is this–too often, we’re trying to teach our kids how to time out how to cook an egg, bacon and toast all at the same time. Make the breakfast.
Not realizing, they don’t even have the sequencing skills to just get the egg right.
So before you try to teach “make the breakfast” please make sure they know how to fry an egg.