Tuesday 19 September 2017

Child's Play. Therapy at Home!

I have mentioned several times in various posts that I am able to turn almost any household chore or child's game into a therapy activity.

In my experience with working with children in early learning settings, through my previous jobs as an Education Officer and even with my own two little superheroes, I have found that children learn best when they are playing.

Children, including my two little superheroes, seem to be more willing to take part in an activity when the activity is fun and enjoyable. They seem to learn best when they think that they are just having fun! If only they knew the truth that, shock horror, they were actually learning and practising new skills!

When an activity is fun and it is purposeful, this can be a huge factor in determining how successful the activity will be and how long a child will willingly participate in the activity.

When L started in his early intervention therapy last year, we wanted to give him the best opportunity possible of succeeding with the new skills that he was being taught.

So Daddy superhero and I decided that we would attempt to turn everyday household activities and chores into therapy activities.

Home really is filled with endless opportunities to teach our children new skills and to allow them to practise new skills.

So here is my list of the how, and the why, to turn household chores into learning opportunities.

But, and there is always a but, before I go on ALL of the following activities are based on our families experience and should NOT be considered medical advice. If you feel that your child lacks in any of the areas that are included in this piece, please consult your GP or paediatrician.

Crossing the Mid-line.

First up, what is the mid-line?

The mid-line is an invisible line that runs down the centre of our body and divides the body into the left and right. The ability of being able to cross the mid-line is not something that babies are born with. Children develop the ability through "normal" childhood development. But it is an ability that babies and children practise every day through play - reaching for toys, playing with their toes, exploring objects with their hands and so on.

Being able to cross the mid-line is an important skill to develop - we use it when writing, reading a book, tying our show laces, sitting cross legged on the floor, doing puzzles, hitting a ball with a bat, catching a ball and the list goes on. Any time your right (or left hand) crosses over to the opposite side of your body, you are crossing your mid-line.

Some children struggle to cross the mid-line and L was one of these children. His lack of being able to cross his mid-line was evident when he was drawing or painting. When drawing or painting on a piece of paper, if he wanted to draw or paint on the left hand side of the page, he would turn the page on the table to get to the spot that he wanted to decorate. L was physically unable to put his hand across his body to the left hand side.

When L was in kindy he was desperate to be able to write his own name, but crossing the mid-line can be a pre-cursor to be being able to write from left to right on a page. Mmmm, what to do.

He was practising crossing his mid-line at the early intervention centre through play, and at home through the following activities.
  • Drying dishes - One of L's favourite household chores is drying the dishes - one day, his future partner is going to love me! We have a small child's table that we use for various reasons in our house. I seat L at the table, put the dish towel in his right hand and the wet dishes on the left hand side of the table. Through the action of reaching across the table to the wet dishes he was crossing his mid-line each and every time. 
  • Painting - I'd always put the paint on the opposite side of the table and ask L to try and reach the paint without moving his body. Again, every time he reached for the paint, he'd have to cross his mid-line.
  • Car letters and numbers - We have created a game board for L to practise his letter and number recognition skills. I have put letter and number stickers on the top of toy cars and have laminated words that L wanted to learn how to spell. L sits directly in front of the board and we put the cars that he needs to his left. Again when he reaches for the cars that he needs, he has to cross his mid-line!
Every time we were assisting L to practise these skills, either myself or Daddy superhero would model to him how to do the skill. This helped tremendously in L being able to successfully complete the skill. And when he became frustrated, we'd offer him reassurance and encouragement!

Proprioception Input.

Earlier this year I published a post on Sensory Proprioception. Put simply, the sense of proprioception is little known but it is very important as it is responsible for our body awareness and position. The proprioception sense tells us where our body parts are in relation to each other, it gives us information on how much force we need to exert in certain activities, like when hugging someone.

Prior to L starting early intervention, I can honestly say that I had no idea what this little known sense was responsible for. When one of his therapists explained the sense, it was a "aha moment."

We then had to start incorporating activities into our day to day routines so that L's sensory proprioception input was increased which in turn assisted in further developing his sense of proprioception.

We did this by:
  • Getting L to assist in carrying the shopping into the house from the car. By carrying bags of differing weights he was able to get a feel for what different weights felt like.
  • We'd get L and O to help with "heavy work" activities around the house - helping to pack away toys in the house, helping to put the washing into and out of the washing machine, watering the vegetable garden with a full 3L bottle of water, moving child's furniture around the house. The possibilities are endless!
  • We'd do some deep tissue massage by squeezing L's arms and legs when he was agitated.
  • We'd encourage L and O to play with different fidget spinners, playdoh and other sensory toys so that they could work out what level of force they needed to manipulate the tools.
  • We have an endless supply of different types of pillows and blankets that the little superheroes can stack, climb on and hide under.
The possibilities for increasing a child's proprioception input really are endless!

Fine Motor Control.

Fine motor control really is a no brainer - we need this skill every day to tie shoe laces, to do up buttons and zips, to write, to read and so on.

Fine motor control is defined as the coordination of our small muscles usually in synchronization with our hands, fingers and eyes.

There are many ways in which a child can practise these skills.
  • L loves to help hang the washing out and take the washing in - in particular he just loves playing with the pegs! I'll put the peg basket down at his level and let him play with the pegs, but the deal is that he has to pass me pegs when I need them. We have a game going where he pegs them onto the side of the basket and I take them from there. When we first started playing this game, hanging the washing out dragged on and on as L struggled to clip the pegs onto the basket. He would usually end up needing to use both hands to manipulate the pegs. Now, he manipulates the pegs with one hand with ease.
  • Prior to going on a family holiday to Queensland in 2016, I created a pencil case of different letter recognition games. L loved "playing" with each and every one of these games. From my point of view, every one of the games helped with his fine motor control - he had to use pegs to clip onto the correct number on some games, he had to pull velcro pieces on and off of other games and all of the games assisted with his number recognition skills.
  • Drawing and painting - we'd encourage L to use the pencil grip to hold whatever he was using to draw or paint with.
  • We have a puzzle board with various clips on it. L loves playing with this and as every clip on the board is different he uses varying degrees of fine motor control to open and close the clips and puzzle pieces.
Again the possibilities for fine motor control activities are endless around the house.

Emotional Regulation

Put simply emotional regulation is the ability to recognise and respond to our own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

Emotional regulation is an important skill for ALL children to learn as it assists them to not only recognise and respond appropriately to their own and others emotions, it can also assist with their overall behaviour. It is thought that emotional regulation is linked to how well children manage other tasks during childhood. Through successful emotional regulation, children are more able to manage difficult and stressful times that occur as part of life. And as a child learns how to self regulate their own emotions, their concentration ability, turn taking and sharing skills are also improved. 

L has always struggled with his own emotional regulation - it was one of the big tell tale signs of his autism from an early age. L rarely responded appropriately to the emotions of others.

We try to incorporate emotional regulation into our daily routine, especially when reading books with L and O.

While reading, we talk about how L and O think the characters are feeling during the story. We talk about why the characters might be feeling that way - what is happening in the story to make them feel that way. We talk about how the story makes O and L feel.

We read books on emotional regulation, such as The Monsters Inside, during which the story gives L and O ways in which they are able to self regulate their own emotions.

Talking about how different characters are feeling also assists in developing my little superheroes theory of mind skills - but that is another blog post!

When deciding on what area of therapy an activity or game would slot into, I think outside of the box. I take a good look at the how and why of an activity. 

Do you have any activities that you do regularly to assist your child's development? I'd love to hear all about your ideas.

*** Theory of Mind - You may have seen this written as ToM. Theory of Mind is the ability to attribute your own mental states (beliefs, intents, desires, emotions and so on) not only to yourself but also to others. It is the ability to place your self in the place of others to try and work out how they may be feeling at any particular moment in time. It is also the ability to understand that others may have different perspectives than your own. Quite often theory of mind has not fully developed in individuals who have autism and as such they will struggle to understand how others are feeling.


  1. These are brilliant, thank you so much for sharing. Your children are very lucky to have you as a mum xxx

  2. I love this. When parents come up with creative ways to teach their child everyone wins. Parents know better what works and how receptive their child will be.

    1. Exactly!! I've come to know what my children love to do and what works for them.

  3. I don't even know where to begin. You are amazing. Your mind is a work of art. I strive to be YOU as a mother. Bravo.

  4. These are wonderful suggestions and so many of them I do with my special needs son daily.... I absolutely agree on making tasks fun... it helps so much... shell

    1. Thank you Shell, am so glad that other parents are also doing these things.

  5. I love what a hands on, actively involved approach you're taking with your kiddos. We try to be as involved as possible with my oldest's speech therapy, and when my youngest was in physical therapy. You've shared a ton of really 'do-able' options, hoping I can implement some at home too.

    1. I think being hands on with therapy really pays off, we've certainly noticed a difference with L.

  6. This is a really interesting style of parenting based around development. I particularly resonate with emotional regulation. It's definitely important that kids know how to get outside of their own emotions sometimes. Thanks for the awesome information!

    1. You are most welcome :) Understanding and knowing how to respond to their own emotions and those of other people is a big one for us.

  7. These are great activities. I especially like the dish washing activity. Those practical life skills are something every child needs.

    1. That was the other point with some of the activities - I want both of my children to be capable of doing household chores too!

  8. I'm always amazed how I take little take for granted, especially when it comes to helping my little ones. Reading this post and learning how everyday activities can help them grow is so valuable. Thank you.

    1. When you start to think about it, there are so many household tasks that we can get our little ones involved in. And some of the tasks they can help out with from quite a young age. O used to love helping with the cleaning when she was a toddler - I'd give her a damp cloth and she'd "dust" the walls and furniture!

  9. These look like fun ideas. I could see us doing them in the afternoons right before bedtime.

  10. These are really creative activities for developing these skills. I love the mid-line ones! Something I hadn't considered with my daughter yet.

  11. Didn’t know crossing the mid-line is difficult (and is actually a thing). Thank you for bringing light into these areas of development and for sharing these therapies that could be done with just daily chores :)

  12. Great post and way to keep everyday chores fun for your kids!


I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog. I do read all the comments that are posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen xx