From an early age, children love to help and be involved. This includes a desire to complete activities that us adults perceive as “mundane,” but are new and exciting for our children- chores. Sweeping, washing dishes, mopping, vacuuming- all of it can be so fun to a child! Now, of course children’s motor skills are not as developed as an adult’s, so their performance of these tasks may be less thorough and efficient. However, children completing these chores from an early age is not only great for establishing good habits and responsibility, bute it can help your child develop skills such as coordination, visual perception and problem solving.
Take loading the dishwasher, for example. Rinsing plates involves bilateral coordination as you hold the dish with one hand and use a sponge with the other. You’re using muscle grading to wipe the dish off, gripping the sponge as you complete rotational movements that build upper extremity strength. Then, loading the dishes in the dishwasher involves visual spatial skills as you orient the plate to fit, often turning and rotating them just right. Not so simple of an activity! These skills can be hard for some children, which is why practice and skill building in the natural environment can be very beneficial.
Below are 10 easy and safe chores that your child can complete that can also benefit your child’s visual, cognitive and motor development. Keep in mind that it’s about the process, not the product. Skill building and learning comes from a child’s opportunities to problem solve and learn from their mistakes- so expect them to miss a spot 🙂
- Sweeping- When using a broom, you are using two hands together, crossing midline, and building upper extremity coordination. When it’s time for the dustpan, this requires further coordination to both sweep and collect at the same time.
- Window washing- Using a towel to wash windows also builds coordination and facilitates crossing midline. In addition, completing wiping motions with your arm raised above your head is great for building shoulder strength and stability.
- Loading the dishwasher- Orienting plates, cups, bowls, and utensils builds on your spatial awareness and visual perceptual skills, and when something doesn’t fit- problem solving!
- Setting the table- Arranging each component of the place setting is great visual memory practice, as well as building sustained attention in order to complete a multi-step task.
- Wiping the table/counters- Again, completing circular, vertical and horizontal arm movements when cleaning a table or counter top builds upper extremity strength and coordination, and getting out those stubborn sticky spots also can teach pressure grading.
- Washing the car- This fun multi step sequence is great for building upper extremity endurance and actually involves whole body gross motor work. Reaching all parts of the car to rinse, wash and rinse again is a great endurance task.
- Folding clothes and towels- Starting with hand towels and working up to shirts and pants, learning the sequence of folding facilitates use of visual spatial skills, visual perceptual skills and motor coordination skills. This is the same group of skills required for many school tasks such as writing, cutting and drawing.
- Sorting the silverware- Sorting utensils by size and type requires tactile and visual discrimination.
- Watering plants- Using a watering can or pitcher can help a child learn grading of movements, as sprinkling water and pouring water are very different.
- Making lunch- Having a child help to make their lunch gives them an opportunity to build fine motor skills when opening/closing packages and containers and using a variety of utensils (safety first, of course) to spread, scoop and cut.
If you have any questions about additional or adapted chores that are appropriate for your children, feel free to reach out to an occupational therapist.