Written by Jenevy Sidhu
It is quite the contrast- while the outside world comes to a near-standstill, there is a flurry of activity within our homes, possibly even more so than ever before. For parents of young children, especially those with disabilities, this time can be highly stressful as they navigate having to work from home, run their households and in many cases, become their children’s teachers. We understand that this is a tough period, with disruptions to the routines of both parents and children. Although it is easier for adults to bounce back quickly and form a new routine for themselves, it is imperative to remember that children with special needs also need to have routines where their time is occupied meaningfully. Routines are especially important for children with special needs because they provide structure and predictability, while reducing stress for the child. For that reason, we came up with a few ideas on how parents can include their children in their own routines.
Have you ever tried cooking, cleaning or washing your car but then had to stop because your child was acting out? More often than not, it’s because they are feeling left out and want your attention; the easy way to rectify that would be by including them in what you are doing. Children learn so much from helping out mum or dad with things around the house. Not only does it give them a sense of competence, but it teaches responsibility, self-reliance and makes them feel like part of the team. That being said, here are some things children can do with their parents, and what are the skills involved.
Separate darks and whites (colour sorting)
Carry laundry basket to washing machine (upper arm strengthening)
Fill washing machine with clothes (hand-eye coordination)
Peg clothes on clothesline (fine motor strengthening)
Folding clothes i.e. matching socks to its pair (visual discrimination)
Children are also learning concepts such as clean and dirty, wet and dry, nice-smelling and smelly when you include these words in your verbal instruction.
Hand you ingredients (number skills i.e. give me 4 potatoes)
Wash fruit or vegetables (adaptive skills)
Cut soft food/fruit, using butter knives (fine motor skills)
Stir, scoop and pour (spatial awareness/hand-eye coordination)
Set the table (memory - knowing where each item belongs)
Measure ingredients i.e. two tablespoons of salt (math skills)
Mix ingredients with a whisk (hand strength)
Add in ingredients (listening to verbal instruction/vocabulary)
Roll dough with rolling pin (hand-eye coordination)
Cut shapes out of dough (fine motor skills)
Roll cookie dough into balls using hands (sensory adaptation)
The icing on the cake, pun intended, is that the kids get a delicious treat after all the work that they put in, which increases the chances of them wanting to work on such a project again in the future. Remember, the more often children are given these opportunities, the better they get at it.
Many people are resorting to home workouts now, and similar to doing chores, children can be included in their parents exercise routine. All of the following activities can be done with a child.
Running in place/around the house
Walk the dog
These activities target different gross motor skills such as arm strength, core strength and balance. In addition, exercise also expends pent up energy which leads to better attention in the day and better sleep at night.
Free play is great for children for many reasons, among them being: to explore creativity, to organically learn how to overcome challenges, to learn how to occupy themselves and to conquer sensory intolerances, something many children with autism struggle with. Therefore, It is important to have free play slotted into children’s routines. Play does not have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some ideas for play using items around the house:
You can use any kind of blocks, or even boxes, for this.
Get them to build the biggest tower ever - minimise your involvement to allow their creativity to flourish
You can also have them build people or animals to inhabit the place, or simply use dolls and animal figures to make their creation come alive. If you don’t have these items, replace them with anything else (leek head, egg shell - draw a smiley face on) and you’ve incorporated pretend play into the activity.
Children love sensory play! It is a great way to play because it builds independent play while also increasing tactile learning (learning about the world through our senses). Depending on what they’re given, sensory play incorporates fine motor skills and finger dexterity.
For children who like getting their hands dirty:
Gloop, liquid dough and tapioca slime (All have a 2 minute prep time, combining variations of flour and water)
Dishwashing liquid + water
Ice blocks + paint
Bear in mind that this does get messy, so just be prepared to hose your child down once it is over.
For children who are tactile defensive and prefer the non-sticky stuff:
These sensory items can be poured into a tray or a basin and mixed with other solid objects to vary the texture. You can give them toys like cars and trucks, or objects like spoons, cups and bowls as well to increase functionality.
Try these activities out and let us know how it went!