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Household chores to enhance development

Written by Tina Strautman, OTR
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Occupational Therapy Turns 100!

This April, not only are we celebrating Occupational Therapy Month, but we also mark the centennial celebration of the occupational therapy profession.

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people to participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations and helping people recovering from injury to regain skills.

Occupational therapists at The Carruth Center, The Parish School's onsite pediatric development clinic, focus on helping children to become successful in their daily "occupations." These include gross and fine motor skills needed for self-care, play and academics, as well as the foundational skills to support them, such as sensory processing, attention and self-regulation.


Chores to enhance children's development

This month, as you begin tackling "spring cleaning" around the house, we encourage you to involve your child in these daily jobs to enhance their development.

Household and yard chores promote specific developmental skills that facilitate a child's independence and self-esteem. They also provide many opportunities for motor planning and the sensory experiences necessary to build higher-level skills needed to be successful in daily life.

Fine motor coordination, hand strength and tactile processing can be increased through chores such as: watering plants with a spray bottle, hanging laundry items with clothespins, feeding pets and pulling weeds. Cooking activities provide rich tactile, visual and aromatic experiences needed to promote positive eating habits, but they also build finger dexterity, coordination, grip and pinch strength. Rinsing and tearing lettuce to prepare a salad, pinching small candies to put on cookies, peeling an orange or banana, using tongs to pick up food items, scooping, opening and closing packages or containers, kneading dough and mixing ingredients are fun types of "work" for little hands. Activities that promote bilateral coordination, strength, proprioception and midline crossing include loading/unloading the washer or dryer, folding or carrying laundry, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, raking, shoveling, washing windows, wiping tables and washing the car.

Every child is unique, so you should take into account your child's abilities and strengths when assigning chores. Playing music while completing these tasks or offering small incentives may also make them more motivating and fun.

Providing children with visual charts or lists, modeling and giving assistance when tasks are introduced will increase your child's confidence, motivation and success. Most children find it fun and feel good about themselves when able to help and spend time together with the family.


Appropriate skills for specific developmental ages
(adapted from choresandchecklists.com and TheHappyHousewife.com):

  • Toddler (2-3 years): put away toys, dust, place dirty clothes in hamper, put clothes away, wipe cabinets, wipe baseboards

  • Preschooler (4-5 years): any in previous list, take out recycling, help vacuum, set and clear table, clean windows, match socks, fold dish towels, weed, feed pets, water indoor plants

  • Early Elementary (6-8 years): any in previous lists, meal prep (wash produce, find ingredients), wipe bathroom sinks, counters and toilets, sweep, collect garbage, get mail, fold/hang laundry, rake

  • Elementary (9-11 years): any in previous lists, make simple meals, take garbage/recycling to the curb, put clothes in washer and take out of dryer, mop floors, help wash car or water outside plants with hose

  • Middle School (12-14 years): any in previous lists, clean tub/shower, make meals/meal plan, wash car, supervise younger sibling's chores


Questions?

For questions or information about occupational therapy, contact The Carruth Center at 713-935-9088 or info@carruthcenter.org.