I am frequently asked how often, how much, and where to practice therapy. Parents are often shown therapy in a setting which doesn’t always translate into their daily lives and as such find it hard to carry out important skill learning with their child. Here are 7 ways to help make therapy a fun and easy part of your daily routine.
Praise and reward
No one works without a reward. Whether it’s a smile, cuddle, praise, or treats, we all want recognition for our hard work. This is doubly important for a child who is having difficulty learning a new skill. These tasks can require tremendous effort, so make sure you give reinforcement for every activity attempted. We talk about descriptive praise a lot at TFK, This is when you provide praise beyond just "good girl/boy" and describe what you like that your child is doing, e.g. “great jumping,” “I like your drawing,” “That threading is wonderful.” etc.
Use your words
As your child learns a new skill, the more cues you give them, the better. If you can explain how to do a task, you can then use these words to help them learn. I start using these phrases with a child from at least 6 months “looking, stepping”, “where are your feet?”, “great reaching,” "ta," etc. In older children it is important to explain verbally how to do a task, as they can often use this knowledge to help plan the activity. I often say “it’s not my job, but I can help" or "you can do it” and then give the child verbal cues to help them finish a task.
Build it in
I call this being “Bob the Builder.” Every time you are playing with your child, help them in a way to meet their goals. For a younger child, place them in different positions and help them move from their back to sitting or up to stand or to reach for a toy. For older children, during play, help them finish what they started and learn to turn an everyday task into a game - can be talking games or memory games. Be creative and have fun with it! For example, getting dressed can turn into a dress-up game.
Let’s do it 3 more times! I always suggest at least the child’s age plus 1 once they are older than 3 years. This way, your child becomes comfortable with practicing a skill.
Everyone in your child’s life should be involved in learning/practicing new skills. Show your family your goals, how you are working towards them, and how they can help. Daily tasks/goals on the fridge, sticker charts, or visual timetables are wonderful ways of involving everyone.
Adapt all environments so that you can practice skills anywhere. For example, take a small tricycle to take your pre-walking child to the park. Practice learning to use a spoon and fork by feeding a doll, learn a new language while cooking, etc.
It is important for children to have a strong core. Find ways to build on core strength and balance in everyday life. Children can sit on hot water bottles/soft cushions or stand on small steps in a box to tell you about their day. Playing row-row-row your boat while sitting on a pilates ball or on your knee, practicing superman position (arms lifted above head while on their tummy) or doing tummy time with littler bubs while on the floor or on your lap and or while playing iPad/watching TV are all great ideas for practicing strength and balance.
I hope these tips are helpful for building your child's therapy skills at home.
Keep safe, happy, and well,