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Functional Tasks Help Children Increase Their Independence

All parents know that frustrating feeling when you’re trying to get your children out the door, however, by allowing them to open the door for you, those couple minutes of patience will actually increase your child’s independence. The action of a child opening a door is what OTs call a functional task or activity.

Functional tasks are tasks children do that help to build their developmental skills naturally throughout a child’s day. Developing skills such as hand pressure or hand-eye coordination can be improved by allowing your child/student to do these naturally occurring, impactful activities.

Examples of hand strengthening functional activities include, but aren’t limited to opening the door, opening a container, opening the toothpaste cap or letting your child zip up their coat.

Sometimes, these functional tasks will get messy. You may want to empty out half of the container’s contents, and then lightly close the container before letting your child/student try to open it themselves. Same thing goes for opening a toothpaste cap. Put your hands on your child’s hands and help them to learn the motion of opening the toothpaste cap. Do this a couple times and before you know it, your child will be opening up toothpaste caps independently. To encourage immediate independence or if things are taking a while on the pressure skill, purchase the gel type of toothpaste in a harder plastic container.

When your child/student is learning to zip their coat for the first time, it helps to put their hood on for them, then allow them to find the zipper. Let the zipper dance go on for a couple minutes. If your child/student is still having trouble getting the zipper to make contact with either end, lead your child’s hands towards it, then step back so they can do the pull-down and pull-up motion of zipping their zipper. They will be so happy you didn’t help with this part, trust me.

If you have been having trouble getting your child to engage in more functional tasks or you’re looking for more functional task suggestions for you to incorporate into your classroom, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment for me in the comment section below. Thank you for working with children and I will catch you next week!

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