Posts tagged ‘ADL skills’

Helpful Hints for Shoe Tying

boy tying shoes

Learning to tie shoe laces is an important but difficult milestone for many children. For some of our clients, just the mention of shoe tying is enough to bring on tears. Here are some ways to help break down the process for your child.

  • First of all, shoe tying should be practiced when there is time to practice. The last five minutes before the bus arrives is not the most opportune time for a child to feel focused and relaxed to attempt a new skill. Some families have found that sticking with slip-on or Velcro closure shoes for the school day and saving the lace up sneakers for afternoons and weekends works for them.
  • Contrast laces can help your child differentiate which lace is which. Get a black lace and a white lace (or two of your child’s favorite colors) and cut each lace in half. Tie the two shortened laces together and lace up a sneaker. Now when your child is learning the motor plan of how to manipulate the laces, you can use directions such as “Make a loop with the black lace”, rather than diving into right vs. left.
  • If your child is having trouble manipulating the laces due to decreased fine motor skills, try using a jump rope wrapped around their foot. The increased diameter of the rope makes it easier for you to fit your hands into the process and help your child. For some children, the simple fact that the rope is not a shoe helps to lessen hesitancy to try. Other children enjoy pretending to tie an elephant’s or a dinosaur’s shoe.
  • Talk to your child’s OT about which method of tying laces may be best for your child. In general, children who struggle with motor planning may benefit from the “two bunny ear” approach, as the steps are repetitive. Children who have difficulty with fine motor dexterity or bilateral coordination may do better with the “one bunny ear” approach. Once you pick a method, stick with it for a good length of time so that your child settles into the consistency of the steps.
    • A word about that “bunny ear”. Most children try to form a bunny ear, but end up with a small balloon-like loop at the very end of the lace; this results in the lace slipping through too far when trying to pull the laces tight at the end of the task. We have found that teaching the child to grasp the “middle of the lace”, then “bring the middle down to the bottom” results in a good-sized loop with enough extra lace at the end to allow for success when pulling the laces tight.
  • Visuals are key! Try a book with step by step pictures, take a video of yourself tying shoes or try an app.
    Shoe Tying app

    Shoe Tying

    Tie Your Shoes app

    Tie Your Shoes

    There are two apps we have found to be useful: Tie Your Shoes and Shoe Tying. Tie Your Shoes breaks the activity down into short steps and gives the option to have black and white laces, or two white laces. The app itself is easy to navigate and allows the user to repeat a step if needed. The video is narrated by a clown, however, even our older children at the clinic don’t seem to mind. (Note: if you are searching for Tie Your Shoes in the App Store, it is listed as an iPhone app, not an iPad app, but the video quality remains clear on an iPad.) Shoe Tying is a little harder to navigate and only shows white laces, but may be appropriate for an older child who finds Tie Your Shoes to be juvenile.

  • Help your child gain confidence by asking them to do part of the task. Have your child complete just the first step (cross the laces), or just the last step (pull the loops tight), then work your way towards completing the whole activity. By celebrating the small successes, your child will gain interest and pride in their accomplishment.

Cooking Together

cooking together

Cooking with your child is a great way to teach about food and nutrition, math skills and science. Mixing, chopping, pouring and decorating are all opportunities for children to work on arm and hand strength as well as fine motor dexterity. Visual perceptual skills are used when searching for ingredients on a spice rack or in the refrigerator. Emerging readers can look for sight words on recipes or product labels. Cognitive skills such as sequencing a multi-step task, prioritizing tasks and managing materials are inherent in cooking activities. And perhaps most importantly, cooking together provides you the opportunity for quality time as a family.

Is your child reluctant to try new foods? Don’t worry; part of typical child development for children ages 2-6 is to avoid trying new foods. Talk with your pediatrician if you are concerned that your child’s picky eating is impacting their growth. Your OT may be able to help you assess your child’s food preferences and identify trends in texture, color, temperature or flavor, and suggest new foods to introduce. With that said, picky eaters should still be invited into the kitchen. Just being near a food provides visual input, introduces the child to the smell, how a food breaks up:  Does it crunch? Does it mush? and more. Participating in any part of meal preparation is a step towards accepting new foods.

Wondering where to start?

Here are some kitchen activities for different age groups. Keep in mind these are general activities; some children may be ready for “older” skills and others may need to master “younger” skills before moving on.

  • 2 year olds are developing control over arm movements and using two hands together.  Invite them to participate in scrubbing fruit, wiping tables or counters, tearing bread or lettuce, dipping vegetables and pouring pre-measured dry ingredients into a bowl.
  • 3 year olds are developing improved hand control and can start pouring small amounts of liquids, mixing soft batter, kneading dough, shaking pancake mix, learning to spread (it will be messy!), placing raisins or other toppings and sorting ingredients by color.
  • 4 year olds are gaining hand and finger strength.  Your child can help by peeling an orange after it is started, squeezing fruit, mashing soft fruits or vegetables, unwrapping packages, pressing cookie cutters into dough or bread, helping to count and measure, helping to gather ingredients and pressing number buttons to set a timer.
  • 5 year olds are developing more mature finger dexterity and cognitive skills.  Have your child assist with measuring ingredients, grating long carrots or large pieces of cheese (with close supervision), using an egg beater, cutting soft ingredients with a dull knife and decorating with icing or other ingredients.
  • Older children can practice math skills by doubling a recipe, figuring out how many servings a recipe will yield, and cutting a tray of brownies or bars into a given number of portions, etc. They can take ownership of a meal by planning and choosing recipes.

Things to remember:

  • Children always need supervision in the kitchen.
  • Teach your child to wash his hands before cooking or eating and after touching raw eggs or meat.
  • Expect spills and messes.
  • Expect the task to take longer than usual.
  • Repeat directions as needed.
  • Don’t forget to have your child help with clean up.

If your child is on a special diet, snack recipes can be a challenge. Here are some recipes put together by a speech pathologist, including some which are gluten or dairy free

For more articles like this, visit Penn State’s Better Kid Care website.