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Simple strategies for teaching new skills

Simple strategies for teaching new skills

I learned to tie my shoes a long, long time ago! I’m sure you did too. I bet you haven’t even thought about all the different ways to teach a child to get dressed! (Or maybe you have, and that’s why you’re reading this blog!)

When we do tasks like getting dressed, that have become automatic, we don’t really think that our child may need to be explicitly taught how to do it. That they may need extra strategies that we may not have needed ourselves. And, I have heard many times from the families I work with: “It’s just quicker if I do it myself!” It is definitely hard when you are running late, or have multiple children to wrangle in the morning, or maybe you ran out of coffee and haven’t had your morning fix (I speak from experience on that one!).

Anyway, I thought I would summarise a few really simple tricks for teaching new skills, and saving your sanity as well!

  • Set aside 10 minutes at a time of the day when there is no time pressure.
  • Make it into a game, where your little person has to copy you.
  • Break the task down into steps, and do each part on its own, then wait for your child to copy you. If it is the first time, you may need to physically help them to do it.
  • Repeat this for each step of the task. When finished, praise praise praise!
  • Over time, reduce the amount of prompting or modelling until the child doesn’t need it at all.
  • Use visual cues to support learning (for example, draw stick figures/pictures of each step of the task, or take photos of the child doing each part of the task, or use a computer program to create picture cards).

I hope these tips have been helpful. Occupational therapists are great at breaking tasks down, and providing strategies like these that are tailored to the individual child, so get in touch with your local OT if you need more support for your child. Happy teaching!

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