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Building your child’s independence for the school-year

With the school year quickly approaching you might be thinking about how you can help your child be more independent with certain tasks. Whether it is getting themselves dressed and ready in the morning or being able to open food packages at lunch, there are plenty of fun ways to start building those skills. In this blog I have put together a list of activities you can do with your child to build their confidence and independence as they head into a new school year.

Promoting dressing skills

  1. Playing with pop toobs or hula hoops - these fun toys are a great way to practice the motor skills of pulling pants up and taking off a shirt. Make a circle with 1 or 2 pop toobs (or use a small hula hoop), have them step inside the circle, and have your child pull it up to their waist and over their head. Have 3-4 in a row in a fun obstacle course.

  2. Dress-up - playing dress-up is a great opportunity to practice dressing skills. Using clothing items that are 1-2 sizes larger than they currently wear will make it easier for them to put on and take off clothing items.

  3. Relay races - add putting on a shirt or shorts during a relay race adds a fun component to a simple indoor or outdoor game with their siblings or friends

  4. Take a seat - having your child sit down in a small chair that allows their feet to be flat on the ground provides them with the proximal support they need while dressing. Have them seated when threading their legs in pants then stand to pull up. Place shirts face down on the floor and have the child put their arms through arm holes then pull up and over their head while seated on the ground.

  5. Time of day - Allowing your child to practice during stress-free parts of the day will provide you with the patience you need and time for them to get it right. Bedtime is a great part of the day to practice dressing skills.

Building Independence with Opening Containers/Packages

Building your child’s bilateral coordination skills and fine motor strength will increase their independence with opening containers and packages when participating in lunch time at school. Below is a list of activities that focus on building those necessary skills.

  1. Tearing paper - tearing large or small pieces of paper is a great beginner activity for bilateral coordination skills. Use the pieces to make a collage or fun craft.

  2. Plastic lid match - utilize the plastic containers in your cupboard and have your child match the lids to each container.

  3. Puzzles inside containers - utilize several lidded containers and place 2-3 puzzle pieces inside each one. This provides a lot of opportunities for your child to practice opening containers that you may use for their lunch.

  4. Play-doh - play-doh is a great way to build hand strength. Use a rolling bin to have them roll the dough, hide pieces in the dough for them to find, use cookie cutters and other fun utensils.

  5. Geoboard - geoboards are a fun way to strengthen your hands and bilateral coordination skills. You can find geoboards here

  6. Squigz - these fun suction toys are one of my favorite toys for therapy. They make fun noises when pulled apart and provide endless fun while also strengthening those tiny hands. You can find squigz here

  7. Pop beads - I love pop beads because they can come in different sizes to cater to different skill levels. Utilize larger beads for younger children and smaller beads for older children.

Promoting Independence With Clothing Fasteners

  1. String beads - stringing beads allows children to practice bilateral coordination as a beginner skill for fasteners. You can find different variations of this activity and grade it up or down to make it easier or harder depending on your child’s skill level

  2. Button play - early exposure to buttons is important to learning how to button and unbutton. Start by sorting buttons by color or shape. You can then have your child place them in a plastic slotted container to work on grasping the buttons with their fingertips.

  3. Popsicle sticks through paper - make small slits in a thick piece of paper and have your child feed popsicle sticks through slit. Draw a funny face on the paper and have the slit be the mouth.

  4. Button snake - buttons snakes are a great way to practice the art of buttoning. You can read how to make your own button snake here

  5. Lots of practice - practice, practice, and more practice. Provide opportunities for your child to practice various fasteners on non-clothing and clothing items.

  6. Fastener toys - there are a lot of fun toys and puzzles that have various fasteners on them for your child to practice. There are links below to some of my favorites.

    1. Bear puzzle

    2. Busy board

    3. Fastener doll

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