Self Help skills
    Children are ready to engage in self help activities when they have had exposure to the
    task, have the necessary fine and gross motor skills, are able to sequence the steps
    in the task and have a sensory tolerance toward the appearance, sounds, feel and
    postures involved in the task.
Therapy Street for Kids
Dressing supports

    General tips:
  • Look for garments at home or at yard sales that have large buttons, zippers, snaps and velcro closures to practice on.  You might
    also find purses and backpacks that have lots of interesting closures to practice on.
  • Undressing is usually easier than dressing so work on undressing skills first
  • Practice garment closures in front of child first, rather than on the body.  Once that is mastered, practice with the garment on.
  • To model the task, sit behind the child with your hands out in front of them while holding the garment or materials
  • Play dress up with some of Mom's or Dad's clothing
  • Play dressing games like this one:  Throw all different types of clothing in a laundry basket (hats, gloves, shirts, jackets, shorts,
    pants, shoes, socks, jewelry, backpack, fanny pack, etc.).   Make up 6 cards, each with a drawing or picture of a body part on it as
    follow: a head, a neck, 2 hands, 2 feet, shirt or upper part of a body, pants or lower half of body.  Each person picks a card on
    their turn and has to find a garment in the basket that dresses that body part.  Then they have to put it on.

    buttons:
  • Practice putting things through slots, starting with a piggy bank and other narrow slots to push pennies or buttons through, etc.
  • Push things through slots where you can see it, and handle it, as it goes in one side and comes out the other (click Illustrations for
    creating button slots)
  • Lacing cards and stringing beads build the concept of pushing through and pulling out
  • To get extra fabric out of the way, create a strip of buttons and button holes, or cut off the panel of buttons, button holes and
    the collar off of an old shirt (click here for Illustrations)
  • Try "backwards chaining":  this is when you model the steps in the process and the child does the last step, then the last 2 steps
    and so forth, until they have mastered it all!
  • When buttoning with the garment on the body, it is often easier to align the buttons at the bottom of the shirt and button from
    bottom to top
  • Button in front of a mirror.  This is especially helpful for managing the top buttons.

    zippers:
  • Practice zipping/unzipping attached zippers first, such as those that are on backpacks, purses and pants.
  • for "separated" zippers, such as those on jackets, show child that there is a slot under the zipper by passing a pipe cleaner
    through it.  Have the child practice pushing and pulling the pipe cleaner through that narrow slot.
  • To get extra fabric out of the way, use an unsewn zipper (can be purchase at a fabric store) or cut out the zipper panel and collar
    from an old jacket).    Click here for Illustrations.
  • Contrasting color sides may be helpful for some: get 2 sets of zippers in different colors (make sure they are the same length
    and material) and switch the sides for color contrast (click here for Illustrations)
  • Try "backwards chaining":  this is when you model the steps in the process and the child does the last step, then the last 2 steps
    and so forth, until they have mastered it all!

    snaps and velcro closures
  • Not too many garments have snaps these days.  Many young children lack the pinch strength to close these, particularly snaps that
    are at the top of the zipper on jeans and other garments with thick materials.  You can adapt the jeans snap by sewing a square of
    velcro over the snaps (self stick velcro will not be strong enough).
  • To practice snaps, some fabric stores sell strips of snaps.  You can make a snap "necklace" out of this to practice lining them up
    and snapping without all the extra fabric in the way (click here for Illustrations).
  • Start with placing garment or snap strip on a table top; Line up the snaps, push top snap over bottom snap with index finger
  • Try pinching top and bottom of snap together, first with hand-over-hand pinching: help child place thumb and finger over snaps,
    place your fingers over theirs and pinch together.
  • To fasten a garment with a row of snaps or velcro, such as a jacket, it is easier to align it at the bottom and work from bottom
    to top.
  • Dress in front of a mirror.  This will help with alignment and getting at the top snaps or velcro.

    shoes/socks
  • Planning how to reach the feet and maintain a stable position is challenging for some.  Two ways to make this easier and more
    stable is to 1) sit on the last step at the bottom of a stair case or on a low stool, cross one ankle over the opposite knee;  2)  lie
    on your back, bend one knee with foot flat on the floor and cross the other leg over the bent knee to bring the foot closer in.  
    These positions place the foot in a position that is closest to the child's reach and field of vision.
  • Master taking off socks and shoes first before moving to putting these on
  • "Backwards chaining" is helpful for both socks and shoes:  this is when you model the steps in the process and the child does the
    last step, then the last 2 steps and so forth, until they have mastered it all.
  • Shoes and socks that are slightly larger for the child will be easier to learn.  Or for practice only, use socks and shoes from an
    older sibling or even from Mom or Dad.
  • Place a small toy of interest inside the sock or shoe and see if the child can feel it, or even grab it, with his/her toes.

    shoe lace tying
  • Start off by working on a table top or on the child's lap so that having to maintain a stable posture does not interfere with
    learning this new skill.  When you are ready to practice tying the shoe on the child's foot, place the foot in a position that is
    closest to his/her reach and field of vision.  Two ways to make this easier and more stable is to 1) sit on the last step at the
    bottom of a stair case or on a low stool, cross one ankle over the opposite knee;  2)  lie on your back, bend one knee with foot flat
    on the floor and cross the other leg over the bent knee to bring the foot closer in.
  • Use an old shoe and replace the laces with 2 different color laces.  Orient the shoe on the child's lap or on a table with the toe
    side of the shoe facing away, the same way as the foot.  When demonstrating, do this side by side or behind the child with your
    hands out in front of them so that it is oriented the same way.  
  • If the child has a different hand dominance than you, then sit opposite him/her.  
  • Talk through the steps as you perform them: Pairing key words with visual modelling reinforces learning.
  • For specific steps in the process, click here for illustrated Instructions.
  • There are several commercially available books that include laces and illustrations available for purchase
    It is so exciting to hear a young child say "I can do it
    myself".    Toddlers are eager to be independent.  We need
    to give them the time and opportunities to try things on
    their own.
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feeding, grooming