Activities of Daily Living
Gaining independence in completing activities of daily living is something all parents and educators want for the child. Every child has the potential to make gains in these areas whether or not they become fulling independent in the activity. These activities include things like eating, bathing, brushing teeth, toileting, washing hands, dressing and undressing, and grooming. Adults may be tempted to do these activities for the child, especially when they are young. It is so important to the quality of life the child may have as an adult, to be able to participate in these activities as much as possible. Because many of these activities require personal and intimate touch, they can be startling or somewhat stressful for the child. The more opportunities your child has to explore materials used in activities of daily living and to practice individual skills required to complete these routines, the less stressful these activities will become for the child.
- Work on skills related to activities of daily living at times and in settings other than during the actual event. For example, practice skills related to eating at times other than during the actual meal when getting nutrition in becomes the important goal for the child. This also allows the child opportunities to practice without someone watching or attempting to “show” him/her the proper way to do it.
- Make activities fun and interesting to the child based on his/her preferences related to sound, textures, shapes and so forth.
- Provide many opportunities throughout the day for the child to practice skills related to activities of daily living. This includes things like grasping, kicking legs, putting things on their heads and taking them off, moving arms, and bringing things to their mouths.
- Be mindful of your pace during the actual activities daily living. Give the child lots of time to complete a single piece of the activity before prompting the child. Some children may be able to do more if given plenty of time to try.
Below are the skills areas featured on this page:
- Hair Brushing
- Hair Drying
- Undressing and Dressing
EatingFor even more information about strategies and issues related to eating, you should also visit Oral Motor Development and Issues. Let the child play and explore things with the mouth. Provide whistles, harmonicas, spoons, or favorite objects with food or flavoring on them. You might try apple sauce or yogurt or pudding. Let your child to explore these items in any way that they want to during play activities. In this video you will see Skye exploring some quack sticks that have been coated with applesauce. She was just learning to eat from a utensil, and we were having her practice bringing her utensils to her mouth. But you can see during this play activity, she’s feeding herself applesauce from a quack stick, which was one of her favorite toys.
Skye Eating ApplesaucePlay Full Video
Easton Pouring and Filling
Skye Eating LunchPlay Full Video If your child can’t maintain a grasp on a utensil (or any object that you are using), you may want to try using a buncher. Click here to find out more about bunchers or to download directions for making a buncher. You can also create a make-shift buncher using a hair scrunchy. A buncher allows the child to keep an object in their hand, whether their hand is open or closed. Hook one end of the hair scrunchy around the utensil. Place the remainder of the scrunchy over the top of the child’s hand and hook the other end over the grasped utensil.
Using a Hair Tie as a Buncher
Jack Using a Buncher
Pulling Toothbrushes and Spoons from Styrofoam
ToothbrushingToothbrushing is often a very stressful activity for the child and the adult helping him or her. There are a number of things you can do utilizing an Active Learning approach to help your child become better able to cope. Just like eating, these activities are taking place throughout the day and not just at toothbrushing time. To help the child learn about “toothbrush-ness” and to make a toothbrush less threatening, offer your child a collection of different types of toothbrushes (adult size, child size, vibrating, different bristle types, different grips, etc.). Let the child play with the toothbrushes anyway he or she chooses. You might put a small amount of different flavored toothpaste or food on some. Have some toothbrushes that are wet and some that are dry. Let the child play with the brushes anyway he or she chooses. Hopefully, the child will bring them to her mouth occasionally when she can control how long the toothbrush is there. Try letting the child play with things that go in the mouth while positioned on a Support Bench or in sitting. You might include things like electric/vibrating and regular toothbrushes, child sized and adult sized toothbrushes, z-vibes with a toothbrush tip, straws, and whistle sippers.
Katy Playing with a Tabletop MobileYou can also make a mobile using toothbrushes. Below is a video of Katy playing with toothbrushes using a Table Top Mobile.
Exploring a Vibrating ToothbrushYou may also place a vibrating toothbrush in the child’s hand using a buncher. Let the child play with the way it feels and the sound it makes as it touches different parts of his or her body, a Resonance Board or table top, a pan, and other objects or surfaces.
Hair BrushingOffer your child opportunities to play with a variety of brushes and combs in anyway he or she chooses. You can offer brushes that have various purposes such as basting brushes, vegetable brushes, kitchen bottle cleaner brushes brushes, nail brushes, along with hair brushes of different sizes, shapes and materials. Look for a variety of combs and picks to offer such as rattail combs, pocket combs, big combs, little combs, hair picks, decorative hair combs, wooden, metal and plastic combs. During independent play offer a hairbrush to the child by holding it steady near the hands to let them explore by raking bristles. You may also want to attach the brush to a Velcro Vest or Activity Belt or stick it to the child’s shirt with Duck Tape.
Patty Demonstrates Raking with a HairBrush
Hair DryingOffer a variety of hairdryers (both real and play) for the child to explore. This is a great way to make use of all the burned-out hairdryers you have. Consider various sizes such as travel-sized, small and large hair dryers. Also try different types such as ones with brushes, diffusers, and other add-ons. If you can find an old-fashioned bonnet dryer, the child might find it interesting to set on top of his or her head. During adult-child play, offer the child things that make noises like a hairdryer or things that produce air. This might include small personal fans, handheld vacuum cleaners, paper fans, blenders, or balloon pumps along with hairdryers. Make sure that the hairdryers are taped or otherwise secured so they do not become too hot. Be prepared to turn the device on and off as the child becomes distressed by the sound. Make sure the child has plenty of time to explore the object before turning it on to produce sound or air. The child might startle to the sound or feel at first, but if they are able regulate their contact or the amount of time they have to hear the device by signaling the adult, they may become more comfortable. You might also connect some of these devices to a timer switch so the child can practice turning the device on and off.
HandwashingWe all know how important washing hands is for anyone’s health and safety. Some children resist handwashing because it is something that is done to them. Here are some ways to let your child learn about handwashing during play. Take a cookie sheet or shallow pan and squirt dishwashing liquid or hand soap in the bottom. Let you child explore by patting, scratching, or rubbing. Add some water to the mix a little at a time to let your child play. Finish by pouring water of his or her hands or rinsing under a faucet.
Playing with Liquid Soap
Cleaning Off Sticky Rice From Hands
BathingBathing is a great opportunity to allow children to engage in water play. Remember safety first. All children must be supervised in the bathtub. It is important to gather any items you plan to use ahead of time. Never leave a child alone in a bathtub until he or she has learned all the skills necessary to do so safely. Start with simple gross motor movements, allowing a child to splash, kick, or move his or her fingers through a hand-held shower. Progress to introduce simple fine motor skills that encourage opening the fingers, touching, scratching, pushing, grasping and letting go of an object, and grasping and keeping an object. Break down large tasks into small skills. Most importantly, adapt bath time so that your child can be active. Here is a unique way of getting a child interested in manipulating a washcloth that you can make at home. You will need a washcloth, needle and thread, and four plastic rings. Sew the rings onto the washcloth so that the rings can lift away from the washcloth. This will allow you to attach items to the rings. You can position as many rings as you choose on one or both sides of the wash cloth. Using plastic rings will allow you to throw the washcloth in the washing machine and dryer. Attach items (beads, hair ties, etc.) to additional plastic rings. Using key rings, attach these items to the rings on the washcloth. Now, when a child is in the bathtub, the toys on the washcloth may attract the child to either the washcloth or the items on the cloth. Once the bath is over, simply remove the items to wash the cloth with your laundry.
Using an Adapted WashclothIn this video, Patty Obrzut, OTR, is using a large tub to demonstrate what a child might do in the bathtub. For children who are sitting in a bath chair, you may place the washcloth across the stomach or chest. This may help to keep the child warm in the tub. A child can scratch the surface of the cloth, move his or her fingers across the cloth, or manipulate the objects. She also attached a buncher between two of the rings. This allows an adult to place the washcloth on the hand of a child if desired. Remember, children develop fine motor skills by first scratching, pushing, then grasping and letting go, and grasping and keeping.
Playing with SpongesIn this video, a buncher is added to a sponge, again for children who want to hold onto a toy, but who cannot maintain grasp. Children with limited movement may just scratch on the surface, while other children may push to hear the water rushing out of the sponge, or grasp and squeeze on the sponge. The washcloth remains in the tub, to build on previously used skills. The child is learning about size, shape, texture, and matter, but above all the child is active.
- If you have an older tub made from cast iron, you may be able to use magnetic toys during bath time. These toys can be pulled off and put back on very easily. If you don’t have a cast iron tub, you can use suction cups to stick to the sides of tubs or bath walls. Items like suction cup soap savers or soap dishes, or toys like sqigz (available on-line, Kohls or Target) are great for learning to push and pull. You can also use suction cups with plastic hooks or suction cup grab bars to hang objects from the side of the tub. You can make a mobile from a dowel rod or yard stick. Attach toys to hang from the mobile, so that children can kick their legs or move their hands to touch the objects.
- Provide suction cup toys, water toys such as balls that soak up water and brushes of varying sizes and shape for water play.
- If a child scratches the surface of a brush, this is a great way to introduce nail brushes to help keep fingernails clean.
- Once a child knows how to grasp and can hold on and keep objects, he or she can begin to engage in more complex ways of water play. Simple cups, bowls and pitchers are great ways of learning to fill or pour. Let the child practice pouring from various size cups and containers.
- Allow a child to explore and bang. Don’t forget to add simple objects like golf balls or ping pong balls to the child’s bathtub or water play. Children will learn that things float and sink.
- Provide bowls and containers along with objects to allow the child to learn to put things in and take things out.
- Save your empty shampoo bottles or soap dispensers and add them to your bath tub toys. Fill the bottles up with water and allow your child to practice squeezing and pumping the dispensers. You may also want to include ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles to this collection.
- You can use a hair tie in place of a buncher to allow the child to hold a corrugated straw. If the child taps or rubs the straw along various surfaces it makes an interesting sound.