Kids’ Chores = Occupational Therapy Practice!
There are many established benefits to giving children regular household chores. From an occupational therapy perspective, this holds especially true for children with special needs.
Some of the known upsides include:
- Establishing routine. Having chores on a set schedule can help reduce anxiety, improve focus and even avoid meltdowns. Many kids on the autism spectrum, for example, feel more secure when they know what to expect next. Chores assigned at the same time each day or day of the week or after certain activities can make for smoother transitions. Visual schedules can help with this too.
- Teaching valuable life skills. This includes learning the task itself but also responsibility. Children with developmental delays and other conditions may need more practice with certain things and sometimes modifications are necessary, but never assume they can’t just because of their diagnosis. Talk to your occupational therapist if you have questions.
- Contributing to the family. No matter what a child’s abilities, there are always ways to help out. It also gives children confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
- Development of fine and gross motor skills and sensory integration. Chores require use of either big muscle groups (gross motor skills) or careful hand-eye coordination and finger manipulation (fine motor skills). These are things our Fort Myers occupational therapy team is probably working on with your child. Chores are a good way to practice and reinforce those skills.
How Chores Help Carry Over Occupational Therapy Goals
Every child’s goals are different, but some of the common skills we work on in occupational therapy include:
- Upper body strength. In particular, we often focus on improving the stability and strength of the shoulder girdle muscles (the area of your collar bones, shoulder blades and the ligaments the connect them around the rib cage). These muscles are the base from which the shoulder joint moves, which allows you to swim or throw a ball and even helps with fine motor skills like handwriting.
- Gross motor skills. These are what give us the ability to utilize the large muscles (legs, arms, torso) needed to carry out whole body movements.
- Fine motor skills. These give us the ability to coordinate small muscle groups, such as those used for manipulating and grasping small objects.
- Visual cognitive skills. Cognitive functions are brain-based skills like memory, language, executive function and attention that allow us to carry out simple or complex tasks. These include visual-spacial skills, which are a person’s ability to process visual stimuli and determine spacial relationships between objects and orient themselves to the world around them.
- Bilateral coordination. This is what we use when we are utilize body parts on both sides simultaneously in a way that’s controlled and organized to perform a function.
- Midline crossing. This is the ability of one body part, such as a foot or hand, to move over to the other side and work from there.
- Proprioceptive input. This is the sensory input we get from muscles, joints and connective tissues that give us body awareness.
There are many chores that can help kids practice each of these skills – some simultaneously.
OT Chore Lists
Your child’s OT can give you specific recommendations if you aren’t sure, but in general, if you know your child’s therapy goals, this is a good guide to start.
- Gross motor and proprioceptive skills: Taking out the garbage, sweeping/vacuuming/mopping the floor, taking sheets and pillow cases off beds, raking/shoveling/pulling weeds, making beds and loading/unloading the washer and dryer.
- Bilateral coordination skills: Sweeping, folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking (especially pouring and measuring tasks).
- Cognitive and visual skills: Preparing snacks, following a recipe, setting the table, picking out clothes, putting away groceries, putting away cutlery (take the knives out first), sorting laundry, matching socks, tidying up toys.
- Midline crossing skills: Washing windows, wiping/dusting counter tops, helping to wash a car.
- Fine motor skills: Folding laundry, putting laundry on hangers, watering plants with a spray bottle.
Many of these will require adult supervision (some closer than others). Safety comes first.
The younger you can start getting your child in the routine of doing regular chores, the easier the transition will be. You may be surprised how much they want to help!
FOCUS offers occupational therapy for children in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online for more information.
Internal Structure of the Children Helping Out: Responsibilities, Expectations, and Supports (CHORES) Measure, 2014, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy
More Blog Entries:
ABA, Occupational Therapy Helps Address Safety Concerns for Florida Children With Autism, March 23, 2020, Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Blog