Before a child enters preschool or elementary school, there are certain skills they should possess that will allow them to properly care for themselves and handle the day to day tasks that will be required of them. These self care (or adaptive) skills can include everything from getting dressed to hygiene, helping with chores and feeding oneself, all which are necessary as they approach school age.
The following activities are suited for use in both preschool and at home to help toddlers develop the important foundational abilities and self-confidence they need for the future. Toddlers are eager to be independent, so take advantage of that fact with by encouraging lots of practice when it comes to getting dressed, personal hygiene and eating meals!
Dress-up time can be much more than just playing pretend, it can also serve as an effective tool for building self care skills. Provide toddlers with multiple pieces of clothing that feature large buttons, several zippers, snaps and Velcro, and have them practice fastening and unfastening the closures as if they were getting dressed or undressed.
Also encourage getting dressed for outdoor play time independently. Children should practice putting on their own jackets, hats, mittens and shoes whenever possible, learning through routine which items should be put on first. Children must master both gross and fine motor skills as they learn to dress themselves, as well as call on their cognitive skills to think through the correct sequence of getting dressed.
Hygiene and toilet training are essential skills that toddlers must develop before they are ready to attend school. At home, parents can work on toilet habits, tooth brushing and bathing by leading through example. Pretend play is also highly effective when it comes to hygiene and grooming skills. Have your child use a doll or plush toy to practice hair brushing, tooth brushing and more.
At school, caregivers can help reinforce proper handwashing techniques before and after meals, after using the bathroom and after getting messy or sticky. Make use of a handwashing song to encourage proper washing up and post visual instructions of the steps required for washing near the sink.
Practice Self Feeding
When a child goes off to preschool, they will need to be able to feed themselves during mealtimes. Before reaching school age, children should be able to successfully open their lunchbox, open containers and eat a meal independently. With the right self help skills activities for toddlers, you can ensure little ones are prepared when an adult isn’t there to assist.
Mealtime skills such as putting a straw into a juice box, or opening a zippered plastic bag can be developed through repeated participation in fine motor activities that involve threading or opening motions. Provide plenty of opportunities for toddlers to practice these new skills at mealtimes and with the materials and toys they use throughout the day.
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