Help Your Kids Practice Self-Care Skills

by Jodi Gilray-Szostak, PT, DPT, c/NDT, Jodi Gilray Pediatric Therapy

Kids may struggle with self-care skills for a number of reasons. For example, if your child does not tolerate clothing, it’s possible a sensory processing disorder is at play. Occupational therapy for toddlers, babies and school-aged children can help your little one reach all of their self-care goals.

Self-care activities for kids

Bring out the dollhouse or action figures.

Dolls and action figures need something to do, and much of the time self-care is involved in one way or another. Maybe the doll or figure needs feeding, a new dress, help brushing their teeth or maybe a soak in the bath. Include items that involve self-care activities like a toothbrush, hairbrush or clothing. 

Make it a competition.

Some kids like to compete to test their skills. Who can get this jacket on faster? Adding a little urgency might make your child focus a little more on the task at hand.

You may even show them you’re struggling with a task. If they can help you out, they’re very likely to complete the task themselves. You also may set a timer instead of joining yourself. See if your kiddo can beat the timer. 

Dance-off! Pants Off!

Adding upbeat music whenever it is time to do a certain self-care activity can make any task a lot more fun. If your kiddo successfully completes the task, it may be time to celebrate with a dance-off. 

Self-care practice

Self-care practice for kids comes along with finding what we enjoy doing in our free time. Give your child opportunities to explore what brings them the most happiness in the day. Coloring, running around outside and reading are all great hobbies to take part in outside of busy schedules.

Encouragement, practice and praise

When you’re at home, the biggest thing you can do to help your child reach milestones in the self-care department is to encourage, practice and praise. 

When they start getting older, give them opportunities to practice without help. If you need to step in, that’s OK. Keep practicing, and when they do a good job, give your kiddo a high five, positive words and maybe even a big hug.

Kids love hearing they did a good job from you, and they tend to respond to praise better than negative feedback. Focus on the positive, and keep practicing.