Do you find yourself constantly reminding your child to use soap? Do you think it’s time they use the potty and wipe all by themselves? Over time, your little one will become more independent and continue to reach key development milestones as they grow and learn to take care of themselves. With a few simple steps, you can teach your child how to be successful with personal and household tasks…and have fun, too!
Assess: Identify Areas of Need
If your child exhibits behaviors that interfere with their ability to perform personal care tasks, these should be addressed before continuing. For example, if you child runs away whenever he sees a toothbrush, then you would want to work on being around and tolering a toothbrush before you can teach him to brush his teeth.
Once these behaviors are resolved, assess the areas that need improvement. If your child already knows how to wash their hands all by themselves, then washing their hair might be a great next step. Once they can wash their hair, they’ll eventually be able to take baths or showers more independently!
Having a hard time choosing where to start? Take a pen and write a list of all the personal care skills they need to learn or improve. Consider which skills may be required before moving on to others. Pick one or two important skills at a time to keep them focused and memorable.
Breakdown: Keep the Goal Simple
Complicated tasks can be overwhelming. Sometimes we want to remind them to brush the big teeth in the back and, “don’t forget to brush on the right, and the left, and the front!” But this style of giving instructions can feel like overload and cause anxiety. With a new task, think about what goals are really important. An example goal might be as simple as remembering to use soap for washing. That way, they always connect the action “wash” with soap for their hands, hair, and even dishes! Achieving goals and milestones is encouraging for both kids and adults. Making them simple and relatively easy to achieve helps your child experience success.
Having trouble keeping them engaged? Try turning the task into a mini game or healthy competition. If they are learning to make their own sandwiches for lunch, you can time them on how fast they can grab all the correct ingredients from around the kitchen. Did they miss anything or add something else? Step it up by letting them make their own!
Illustrate: Provide Visual Aids
If your child is younger or the skill is complicated, providing visual aides for them to remember each step is a great way to ensure that they follow each step in the correct order. Visual aids can be anything from a step-by-step checklist to a labelled picture. This way, they are able to refer to the aide and mimic its directions. Although we recommend that you do not leave your child unattended during new or difficult tasks, it will make you feel at ease when you do step away or let them practice by themselves.
Stepping up your game: Visual aides work because they’re engaging, colorful, and tangible. A great way to guarantee your child’s attention is to consider taking some time to draw the steps out together with crayons and markers. You can also take pictures of your child practicing each step, and glue them in order next to each other. That way it’s not only educational, it’s personal and memorable, too!
Treat: Praise Good Progress
Rewarding progress is a key to success, especially if your child experiences difficulty in grasping new skills. Encouraging them to grow and succeed will boost their confidence and push them to reach higher goals. Try to minimize your corrections or discipline during this time so that your child doesn’t feel discouraged. Treats don’t have to be extravagant (or even physical), sometimes the best treats are heartfelt compliments!
Keeping the suspense: If you’ve chosen a task or skill that can be broken up into small phases, you could have a sticker chart that marks each time they master a phase or goal until they can be completely (or almost) independent, for which they can get a bigger, secret prize of your choosing!