Incorporate Occupational Therapy Into Kids’ Chores
Chores have many benefits for kids of all ages and abilities. In addition to help with learning personal responsibility, perseverance, teamwork, improved life skills and self care, chores can be a great way for your child to work on their occupational therapy goals.
Chores can be great for targeting things like:
- Gross motor skills. These are are abilities that allow children to do things that involve using the large muscles in the torso, arms and legs to complete whole-body movements
- Fine motor skills. These are the skills that allow coordination between small muscles, like those used for grasping small objects, writing and fastening buttons.
- Upper body strength. These are skills like shoulder girdle stability, which allows surrounding muscles to support the body structure and allow accurate hand functions.
- Bilateral coordination. This is the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a manner that is controlled and organized.
- Proprioceptive input. These are the sensations we get from our joints, connective tissues and muscles that allow us to have body awareness.
We work on mastery of these skills in occupational therapy sessions, but you can help them practice at home – which will help them make faster progress!
Certain chores have specific benefits, from an OT perspective. For example, those that require lifting, pulling, pushing and other “heavy tasks” offer a great deal of proprioceptive input. For a child who is feeling some sensory dysregulation or having trouble focusing, these can be an especially helpful break from schoolwork or technology.
You can talk to your OT about what types of chores would be best suited for your child, given their age, abilities and what skills they need to target. Many require adult supervision, especially when you’re using things like electrical equipment and gardening tools.
Occupational Therapy Chores for Pushing & Pulling
Pushing and pulling chores are good for things like bilateral coordination, proprioception and gross motor skills. These can include tasks like:
Sweeping, vacuuming and mopping. Give your child some instruction on how to use both hands around the handle. This isn’t something many kids find comes easily. Make sure also that the size of the vacuum or broom you’re using isn’t too big for your child to manage.
Yard work. This includes jobs like yard raking, snow shoveling, sand raking or digging holes to plant trees or gardens. Supervision is important with some of these tasks, and make sure they’re age appropriate. Having them work alongside you can be a great bonding experience.
Laundry. Lifting items into and pulling them out of the washer and dryer is good “heavy work” sensory input. You can also (depending on their size and ability) have them help you carry laundry to and from the laundry room.
OT Chores for Coordination
Many (perhaps even most) chores allow for some degree of bilateral coordination. Some help more than others.
Folding laundry. Having your child help you fold bigger items like sheets and blankets can be good opportunity to hone those large bilateral movement skills. Folding and rolling towels and clothes is good for this also, and can give them a chance to work on those fine motor skills too.
Cleaning with a cloth. This could be any surface – table, car, windows, bathroom sinks, etc. Teach them how to use circular motions with both of their hands as well as back-and-forth motions. Know that while ideally you’ll end up with a clean surface, but the main goal is to help them move both of their hands together in a way that is coordinated. If the surface is vertical, it can also really help build upper body strength as well.
OT Chores for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Sorting laundry. This can help with visual perception, as well as matching and counting. You can mix it up too: Have them one time put all the socks together, another time find all their own clothing and yet another time have them match up various outfits. This activity may not be much actual help, but it will get them in the good habit of helping you out.
Wiping down surfaces. Young kids like to do this even when the surface isn’t dirty. Show them how to move their hands in a coordinated way.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
How Kids Benefit From Chores, June 15, 2012, By Laura Grace Weldon, Wired.com