🎵 Clean Up, Clean Up! Everybody, Everywhere! Clean Up, Clean Up! Everybody do your share! 🎵
Encouraging your child to assist with small cleaning tasks builds independence and teaches a valuable life skill from a young age. While they are likely not ready to clean an entire area themselves, they can start small.
You can begin to introduce the idea of cleaning up with these entry-level tasks:
Throw away trash
When finished eating, put the dish in sink or on the counter
Wipe off tables after meals
Clean up one activity before beginning next activity
Pull up pants in restroom or during dressing times
Washing hands in restroom and before meals
Introducing this idea to your toddler may seem overwhelming, but here are some tips that will make the transition go more smoothly:
Model it from a young age! Children often imitate what the see. Rather than waiting until nap time to clean up their toys, make it a part of our day that you do together.
Start small by asking for one task at a time: asking to clean up the puzzle before moving on to play with legos. If you are doing the activity together, help them clean up as well.
KEEP IT FUN! The more fun you make it, the more you child will enjoy it and the more like they are to continue to do so in the future.
"How many purple blocks can fit in the basket?"
"Let's race! Who can clean up the fastest? Ready, set go!"
Be mindful of your phrasing. Instead of "No snacks until you clean up!" try saying, "First we're going to clean up our toys and then we will go have snack!" It is also helpful to give a warning before ending the activity. "We have 4 more minutes then its snack time! Do you want to help me set the timer?"
If your goal is to encourage your child to enjoy cleaning up after themselves, it helps to have a specific place for everything. Bins and baskets are a great way to organize child's toys and it is easy for children to throw items in. Regardless of age, you can set clear expectations for your child to clean up after themselves. It will likely take a lot of practice and patience, but you will get there if you keep at it!
Helping your child meet Occupational Therapy goals does not require expensive equipment. Budget-friendly items can target multiple goals while keeping your little one engaged and excited about practicing their skills.
Take advantage of the opportunities to work on asking for "more" or "help" where necessary. These activities are also a wonderful chance to model vocabulary for your child; count the bubbles, identity colors, narrate everything! The more exposure to vocabulary the better!
1. BUBBLES: Bubbles strengthen oral motor skills while blowing which are often goals of both Speech and Occupational therapy. Bubbles also assist with visual motor skills through tracking and popping the bubbles in the air.
2. THERAPUTTY: Children love to find hidden items in the putty. You can use small beads or mini erasers from the dollar section at Target. There are several different strengths available, depending on the requirements of the child.
3. BEADS AND STRING: Activities that require two hands are a go-to with Occupational Therapy. Depending on the child, small adjustments in the size of the beads and the flexibility of the string are easy ways to upgrade or downgrade this task.
4. BLOCKS: Blocks are a classic, yet versatile tool. Slightly larger blocks are great for younger children to practice stacking or imitating while smaller legos are great for older children. Magnetic tiles are a wonderful option too!
5. CLOTHESPIN/TWEEZERS: This versatile tool is great for hand strength and coordination. You can repurpose the beads from above mentioned activities and move them into cups or containers. Try using cups or containers the same color as the item so your child can practice matching colors too!
6. KINETIC SAND: Kinetic sand is many children's favorite activity. This activity teaches children to tolerate different textures as well as working on their fine motor skills through building, scooping and crashing into the sand. Try using cookie cutters to make fun shapes!
7. BEANS AND RICE SENSORY BINS: Most households likely already have the necessary materials for a sensory bin in their pantry. Sensory bins offer many similar advantages as kinetic sand. Hide small toys in the bins and ask your child to "find the bear!"
8. BALANCE BEAMS (or walking on the curb): If you do not have a balance beam, go for a walk outside and show your child how to walk on the curb! This seemingly simple task works on several Occupational Therapy goals including balance, body awareness, and gross motor skills.
9. SWING/TRAMPOLINE: Swings and trampolines are wonderful tools for helping your little one learn about body awareness and balance.
10. LADDER: Climbing is one of the best opportunities for learning motor planning (first I move my right arm, then my left leg) and coordination. This task helps reach the goals of Rock walls are also a great option to practice this!
Updated: Jan 27
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BONUS QUESTIONS *COVID-19 EDITION*
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"If the child can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn"
~ O. Ivar Lovaas