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How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Take the “Chore” Out of Doing Chores

All work and no play? No way! It can be difficult to encourage children to participate in daily routines and chores at home. Chores are hard for all of us to complete at times. However, chores don’t have to be all work and no play! By utilizing several simple Blog-Chores-Main-Landscapestrategies, doing chores can turn into fun activities for the whole family to complete together.

Participating in chores is a very important part of development. Completing household tasks will foster increased independence and self-esteem within your child. Your child will also learn the importance of working together. He or she will gain a sense of accomplishment and pride once tasks are completed, which will build internal motivation to continue participating in chores in the future.

For more information on selecting developmentally appropriate chores for children of all ages, please see the previous blog Household Chores for Children by Age. By selecting age-appropriate chores, you will help maximize your child’s success. In addition to establishing realistic expectations for your child, you can utilize the following strategies to take the “chore” out of doing chores!

Make chores into a game:

Be creative with the daily routine! Have a race with your child to see who can complete their task first. Try to beat the clock or timer while cleaning up toys. Turn the task into a sport, like shooting baskets with clothes into the laundry hamper.

Play pretend:

Create a secret mission for your child to complete. Make an obstacle course throughout the house while completing tasks. Have your child pretend to be their favorite character while cleaning. Sing songs while completing chores or cleaning up.

Call chores by a different name:

“Chore” can have a negative connotation and feel like a burden to a child. Chores could be called projects, jobs, or secret missions, among many others, in order to make it seem more fun and exciting.

Implement a reward system:

Reward systems can provide a source of external motivation for completing daily tasks and routines. Provide your child with a token or object after completing a chore. This token could be a sticker on a reward chart, a marble in a jar, or a check mark on a checklist. After the child receives a pre-determined number of tokens, he or she can receive a larger reward.

Create visuals:

Utilize a calendar or chart in order to provide an additional visual cue of responsibilities to be completed throughout the week. Incorporate the child’s favorite pictures, characters, or interests in order to make the chart personal and unique.

Keep in mind that new chores may be more difficult for a child at first. It is important to provide cues and reminders in order to support your child and foster confidence in completing new tasks. You can assist your child by breaking down the chore into smaller tasks. Encouragement and praise are also very important for increasing your child’s confidence and independence. By utilizing these simple strategies on a regular basis, you can turn boring chores into exciting fun for the whole family!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Heavy Work Strategies for the Busy Family

Young Boy Holding a Pile of LaundryLife can get heavy from time to time and everyone gets stressed out. Unknowingly, many adults cope with said ‘stressors’ by incorporating various self-regulating strategies into their daily routines. They may take a deep breath or find their ‘zen’ in a yoga class. Some may take pleasure in the simplicity of sipping a warm cup of tea, while other more physical individuals resort to running a mile or two. Yet others prefer to lounge under a tree to read an enchanting romance novel. Children, like adults, need to have the ability to calm their bodies and self-regulate. One way for children to gather themselves in times of stress is by incorporating “heavy work” into their daily routine. ‘Heavy work’ activities provide deep proprioceptive input into a child’s muscles and joints, and thereby help them self-regulate in the same way that exercise may help an adult deal with stress.

Here are some examples of preparatory methods that can be incorporated into everyday life and used before a child encounters a stressful situation such as a loud birthday party, busy school day, or long car ride.

Heavy Work Activities To Provide Deep Proprioceptive Input For Children:

  • Help Mom: The completion of many chores can help incorporate ‘heavy work’ into a child’s daily routine. Examples include: carrying laundry, stirring recipes, pushing a grocery cart, or carrying shopping bags from the car.
  • Relay races and other forms of exercise are wonderful ways to build endurance and self-regulate. Examples include: wheelbarrow walks, froggy jumps, bear crawls, army crawls, crab walks, skipping, galloping, yoga, swimming, and gymnastics.
  • Play Outside: Take a walk and pull a wagon full of goodies, push a friend or sibling on the swing at the playground, build a
    sandcastle at the beach, or help around the house with yard work.
  • Rearranging Furniture: Pushing heavy chairs and couches provides deep proprioceptive input to the major joints and muscle groups of the body. You could put a fun spin on the activity and make a fort using furniture and blankets right in your living room!

‘Heavy work’ strategies can be incorporated into everyday life no matter the context or season. The use of these strategies may assist your child with more independence and self-soothing when they are feeling upset. This will also allow them to strengthen their muscles, increase their endurance, and may just help you cut back on the time spent completing housework chores. For other self-regulating ideas, please contact a NSPT occupational therapist.

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Household Chores for Children by Age

Children doing household choresWith school, holidays and less time to keep up with household chores, parents everywhere are looking for a few more helping hands to keep “home base” spick and span. Here is a brief overview of developmentally appropriate household chores:

Here is a brief overview of the developmental sequence of household chores:

Chores for a 13 month old:

Your child should begin to imitate you completing household chores. Pushing a pretend vacuum cleaner over the carpeting or helping you wipe up their craft table are excellent examples.

Chores for a 2 year old:

Your child should demonstrate the ability to pick up and put away their toys with verbal reminders (e.g. clean-up your puzzle before lunch).

Chores for a 3 year old:

Your child should be able to carry things without dropping them; dusting, drying dishes, and gardening. They should also be able to wipe up their spills.

Chores for a 4 year old:

Your child should be able to prepare dry cereal and snacks for themselves. They should also be able to help sort laundry before washing.

Chores for a 5 year old:

Your child should be able to put their toys away neatly, make a sandwich, take out the trash, make their bed, put dirty clothes in their hamper, and appropriately answer the telephone.

Chores for a 6 year old:

Your child should be able to help you with simple errands: complete household chores without redoing them, clean the sink, wash dishes with assistance, and cross the street safely.

Chores for a 7-9 year old:

Around 7-9 years of age, your child should begin to cook simple meals, put clean clothes away, hang up their clothes, manage small amounts of money, and use a telephone correctly.

Chores for a 10-12 year old:

Your child should have the ability to cook simple meals with supervision, complete simple household repairs with appropriate tools, begin doing laundry, set the table, wash dishes, and care for a family pet with reminders.

Chores for a 13-14 year old:

Your child should be able to independently do laundry and cook meals. By expecting your child to complete daily chores before moving onto their preferred activities, it is a wonderful way to prepare them for the demands of homework and other activities when they return to school.

Children of all ages can contribute to keeping up with housework. In addition to keeping your house clean, chores are also an excellent way to instill a sense of ownership and responsibility into your child’s daily routine. Your child could be responsible for one or two chores each day, or each week, depending on the time they have available. Create your own system for keeping track of the chores your child has completed (ex. sticker chart or a marble jar). Each time your child completes their chore, reward them with one token (ex. one sticker or one marble). When they reach 10 tokens, reward them with a bigger prize of their choosing (ex. an ice cream treat or a trip to the zoo). Be sure to verbally praise your child with each attempt at completing a chore and assist them as needed, especially while they work to complete a novel duty. Your verbal encouragement paired with the reward system will only help to motivate your child to take on more and more responsibility at home.

Fleming-Castaldy, R. P. (2009). National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam: Review and
Study Guide. Evanston, IL: International Educational Resources, Ltd.

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Save Time: Incorporate Your Child’s Home Exercise Programs into your Daily Routine

Therapy Homework Doesn’t Have To Be Another Task On Your Long To-Do List

Girl Helping Un-pack GroceriesSometimes, it can be overwhelming to fit everything into your day when there is just so much to do! That feeling has often led me to wish that there were at least 28 hours to each day so that it could all be accomplished! Instead of feeling like your child’s occupational therapy homework is another thing to cross off your list, there are ways you can incorporate it into your usual daily routine. Below are some ideas to incorporate this homework into your routine to make it easy to get it done.

Ways To Incorporate Occupational Therapy Homework Into Your Daily Routine

1. Have your child transition from activity to activity as he gets ready to leave the house for the day by doing heavy work.

  • For example, he can wake up and do 10 jumping jacks before going to the bathroom to brush teeth, crab walk to the kitchen for breakfast, bear crawl to the bedroom to get dressed, and then frog jump from the front door to the car to leave for the day.

2.Have your child help you with household chores. For example they can:

  • push a laundry basket
  • help vacuum
  • wipe the table off after dinner
  • push in chairs
  • shovel snow
  • rake leaves
  • changing sheets on the bed
  • take out the garbage
  • help carry groceries from the car to the house and help put them away

3. Have your child use tweezers or clothespins to help make pizza for dinner (or another meal). Have him pick up pieces of cheese or pepperoni with the tweezers and put it on the pizza dough.

Please leave a comment if you have any additional tricks to fit your child’s therapy homework into your daily schedule!

Introducing Chores To Your Child

family clean upMany parents struggle with deciding when their children are old enough to help with chores. And when that time comes, they may have difficulties getting their children to lend a hand around the house. Instead of making chores seem like a punishing task, try to be creative and have fun. By getting your children involved with housework, you can teach them about responsibility, enhance their self-esteem and give them the sense of accomplishment that accompanies a job well done.

Strategies to get your child helping out around the house:

Simplicity is key – You want to make sure that the task is manageable.  In the beginning, don’t assign chores with multiple steps. Keep in mind that your child will not be able to complete chores perfectly, and that it will probably take several attempts until he/she can do them according to your standards. Be sure to praise your child’s  attempts, and whatever you do, do not fix his/her work. This will only discourage the child and make future attempts less likely.

Be consistent – When introducing new chores, make sure to pick just a few manageable tasks. Starting with one or two chores is a wise idea. After the child is able to accurately complete these chores, introduce additional tasks. You do not want the child to feel overwhelmed with several tasks, because he/she will begin to ignore or ditch new chores. Additionally, be sure to let him/her know when the chore needs to completed. If the chore is not completed in the specified time frame, there should be reasonable consequences in place that your child is aware of. Read more