Navi-Gator book cover

A Picture-Mapping Program for Parents and Children

by Dr. Dale E. Seiden, Ed.D. and Donna Geffner, Ph.D. 

is a 58-page book designed to help parents and caregivers communicate with their children. Navi-Gator guides you in creating your own drawings to teach and reinforce concepts of positive behavior and communication. This picture-mapping helps to teach your child appropriate and inappropriate behaviors by using simple pictures linked to a personalized, sequential story (rather than only language) to shape real-life situations and foster understanding.

» Buy the book

What is the Navi-Gator?

Navi-Gator doll

The Navi-Gator method is an arts-based, picture-mapping technique that is so easy and quick, it’s like throwing a switch!

It is a flexible toy-like tool that will help you to effectively and positively alter a child’s behavior using storytelling through pictures. From the time you decide what to navigate, the whole picture story—drawing it out—should take no more than ten minutes to complete. We have done them in sixty seconds, and they work great. It might take a little practice, but you will be very happily surprised at how effective this method can be.

Navi-Gator is an interactive book to help parents communicate with and manage behaviors of their children. The Program uses hand drawn pictures to tell stories to help effect educational and behavioral change. This method is basically used for two purposes: one is to teach a life skill or lesson (do not steal, no biting, how to share, etc.) and the other is to present a personal agenda (what does our afternoon look like, what will happen at the birthday party, what is camp, etc.). In all cases, it is designed to help you communicate better with your child through Picture-Mapping.

If you use the Picture-Mapping technique provided in our series, your child will gain increased visual memory and working memory skills. Visual and sensory participation helps to synthesize communication between the two of you! You will have included your child in a sharing and learning activity. The idea behind the Navi-Gator technique is that you and your child will have a multi-modal communication that works! Our little Navi-Gator will help the child on a lesson or activity journey as if he/she is using a Global Navigation System.

How is the Navi-Gator book set up?

These five chapters cover parts of life in which we have found that children and parents need help with behaviors for which the Navi-Gator technique can be especially useful. Of course, there are endless, infinite amounts of slices of life and situations for each of these sections. We have chosen to show you a few diverse anecdotal situations that have occurred in each of the following chapters.

The Chapters are:

  1. 1. Playing Well With Others (Socialization);
  2. 2. School Days (Academic and Learning);
  3. 3. Family Dynamics (Managing Behaviors at Home & Parent-Child Issues);
  4. 4. Medical (Dealing with Medical Concerns and Problems);
  5. 5. Safety (Matters of Caution and Safety).

Each Chapter is comprised of unique, true real life situations—stories told by the authors, parents, teachers, and other caregivers—that demonstrate the efficacy of the Navi-Gator Picture-Mapping program. Many of the stories come from mothers or teachers who found themselves in a difficult situation in which a child’s behavior needed to be altered. In each case, negative behavior was transformed into positive behavior by the use of sequential mapped-out pictures. Each drawing story specifically meets the needs of the child or children in the midst of behavioral distress. It teaches an important life skill lesson or helps you journey through a personal agenda.

Every real life situation is true and really took place, but all children’s names, settings, and other identification variables have been changed to protect confidentiality and anonymity of the children and families. Some parents enabled us to use their full names, and others requested that we just use their initials. All requests were honored, and all releases were obtained.

How do I use the Navi-Gator?

After you see how the picture-maps were drawn for each of the real life situations in the five chapters you will be able to do your own!

It’s important to note that, although we provide examples and tools to use this method, you need to be the teacher and the creator of these picture stories for your child. Sequentially tell your personal story (lesson or activity) to your child. Use specific and personal pictures in a more specific domain: the concept of sharing can be told universally, but when you create that picture story, use your child’s name and that of his/her sibling, or friend. Make it personally about him or her—if your child specifically throws “pencils” in school, show that instead of using a general story about not throwing “objects.” If your child is misbehaving in ballet or soccer, specifically use ballet or soccer as your theme rather than dance or sports in general.

This is the key: before you begin to use this program, make sure your agenda or lesson is clearly defined. In other words, what is your story for that particular child? No one but you can tell your story—this is your child. However, you have to think it through to define what the issue or problem is, and you have to know that this is what you want to fix, or tell. Then proceed to show/teach your child in a shared picture dialogue.

By selection, you choose a slice of life that you need or want to share with your preschoolers (ages 3–7). Draw the pictures that most closely correspond to what you want or need to explain or teach. When you draw, your choice is endless. Make it as personal as you can to your child. This process will enable you to flexibly move plans for a particular set of hours and/or life situations that will soon tell your particular “story” called a “narrative sequence.”

If you organize blocks of time in your child’s life, and carefully sequence the activities and/or ideas, a newly formed dialogue and communication is created. The decision to select the pictures involves a process called “task analysis”, a vital condition for learning. It means you are breaking the whole into more understandable, smaller parts for the purpose of comprehension. You become the picture storyteller, the visual narrator. Your child becomes the audience at first, and then this process becomes shared.

If it’s a lesson, teach it in pictures. Your child is hitting, so you illustrate a child with personal space around him, (see Chapter 1: Socialization) and you teach your child not to hit, bite, kick, or hurt another child by breaking through their personal space. It is not allowed, the rule is you don’t hit or hurt anyone else’s body, and you can use a red pen to X that out! The process of actually putting a red X on a symbol (and letting your child do it!) teaches that it is totally NOT okay to do that and includes your child interactively in the lesson.

If it is a daily agenda, and you plan to play in the park, but it starts to rain, cross out the park with the red marker to show that it isn’t happening today…and put a restaurant or snack over that time slot. If you change your rule or lesson, show your child the switch! If you are teaching a concept to share, and you buy a toy that you don’t expect to be shared, show the exception in your story. It’s all up to you.

Even just three or four pictures in one sequential map can and will have magical results! This method can very effectively preempt meltdowns and upset in a young child. The first thing it does during crying or screaming is surprise the child just by inserting the picture map in front of them at a time when he or she just expects to hear more words from you (and the same ones, too—like, “Stop it, now!”—and how well does that work?). Then, once his or her attention is altered, the picture-mapping story or lesson begins to make sense. When the child is engaged in our system, a sense of control of time and space evolves which can decrease anxiety, stress, and anger. You will be able to get your child to do what you want, in many cases, by showing a small set of pictures to him or her, rather than just talking! Try it!

» View an example of picture mapping from the navigator book