Looking for something?

Find it in our extensive resource library!

Smart Filters

  • Reset
  • Services

  • Who it's for

  • What it’s about

  • Format

View: 1649

Download: 61

Visual support: ‘first and then’ boards

What are first and then boards?

First and then boards are a type of visual support. They show two activities that take place in sequence, to help your child understand what is going to happen.

Why do we use first and then boards?

First and then boards are really helpful for helping children to understand and follow directions and for making things predictable.

They can help children understand what is going to happen and make it easier to move from one activity to another.  Some children might not want to stop doing an activity they really like – but seeing a picture showing them that another activity is going to happen next, can help them to move on. Knowing what is going to happen next can reduce anxiety.

They can also motivate them to do an activity that they do not like as much, by showing them when they can do what they enjoy.

They also lay the foundation for carrying out activities which require multiple steps later on.

How do I use a first and fhen board?

Decide what your child will do first, and then decide on the preferred item or activity for them to have afterwards. The preferred item or activity needs to be motivating enough that your child wants to follow your instruction.

It can work well to start using a first and then board with a sequence your child already knows, for example ‘first bath…then story’ – this way, your child will find it easy to move from the first activity to the next.

Put the visuals on the board. You could use photographs, symbols, or even draw them on, depending on your child’s understanding, then show the board to your child and give a very brief verbal instruction using the least number of words possible.

For example, you might say “first breakfast, then playdough”

An image of a cereal box under the word first, next to a rolling pin, dough and biscuit cutter underneath the word next, this means first breakfast then baking

When they’ve completed the first task, you should refer back to the board, for example saying “breakfast finished, time for playdough” then immediately provide the second activity. If you don’t provide it straight away, your child might not trust the first and then board.

Examples of activities you can put on a first and then board

Some examples of activities include:

  • first shoes, then bubbles
  • first sandwich, then swing
  • first brush teeth, then bath
  • first get dressed, then cars

Try to think of some activities that you would like your child to do as your ‘first’, and also some motivating activities that you could use for ‘then’.

Different kinds of first and then boards

First and then boards can use different kinds of visuals, including photos, symbols, hand drawn pictures, or even an app. Symbols or photos can be attached to the first and then board using velcro or blue tack. Here are some examples:

Using photographs

A plate of lasagne with the word dinner, this is under the word first, next to it is an iPad underneath the word then. This means first dinner then iPad.

Using symbols

A symbol of a person getting dressed under the word first, next to a person standing outside by a tree and a flower underneath the word then. This means

Using hand-drawn pictures

Hand-drawn picture of an apple and a car, under the words first and then. This means first apple then car A whiteboard with scissors and musical notes drawn on, above the words first and then. This means first cutting then music

There are also some downloadable apps for your phone or tablet, but sometimes using technology can be distracting for children.

Your child’s speech and language therapist can help you to decide which of these methods is the most appropriate for your child.

Download a free first and then board and symbols to use at home with your child here: First and Then board and symbols

Additional resources and information

This video is part of the Weekend Words series and explains what is a ‘first and then’ board and why do we use it. It includes a demonstration of how to use it.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

Contact us


Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL18

Resource Type: Article

How useful did you find this resource?*


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

Interesting Facts

We’ve got a special MRI scanner just for teddies so children can see what it’s like before they have a scan.

Help to transform our extraordinary hospital into something even better.


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.