Think about the small and big activities that make up your daily routine: picking up, holding, and carrying your child, getting your child dressed, meal times, changing diapers, getting into the stroller, running errands, going for walks, cleaning, folding laundry, cooking, bath time, and so on. Learning and development are embedded in all of those little activities of everyday life. We just need to make a few simple tweaks and upgrade them to target developmental skills.
Here are a few little adjustments you can make to your daily have-to’s that will support your child's motor and cognitive skills.
Do things with your child, instead of to your child.
Aim to join your child in activities and involve him/her. Think about doing small daily actions WITH your child, instead of TO your child. When you help your baby get dressed, catch her attention and invite her to participate however she can. When you tie your toddler's shoe, encourage her to watch how you tie the laces. Joining your child like this offers learning experiences in moments that could otherwise be void of their involvement and awareness.
Be mindful of how you use your hands and body.
The hands you use and movements you make to help your child through daily routines are your child's first connection with the world, and her introduction to feeling her body through yours. The way we move and touch our babies and kids can either help bring their awareness to their physical self and how they is moving, or not. As you go through daily tasks like diaper changes, getting dressed, putting your child in the high chair, or laying your child down, slow down the speed at which you move your child, and reduce the force you use. If you can take your time and move gently and slowly, your child will be able to feel and notice more clearly what is happening with her body, perceiving more of her own movement and less of yours.
Narrate your process.
Narrate your process as you flow through daily routines. Instead of swiftly picking up your child to take her somewhere, take the opportunity to talk to her and tell her what you are doing with her body. “I am going to put my hands right here, on your ribs, and bring you up, one leg is coming over to this side, and the other over here, and we are going to walk over to the kitchen for a snack.” Narrating your process like this involves your child and encourages her to be a more active participant in her movement during seemingly passive activities.
Create safe play spaces where you need your hands free.
Whether you have an infant or a toddler, create safe play spaces in multiple rooms of your house where you need your hands free for your job or housework. Maybe in the kitchen, in your bedroom or bathroom, and the laundry room where you do endless loads of wash? Have a safe wiggle space for your child in each of those places, so that you can keep a close eye on your kiddo and get your chores done at the same time. But, BONUS, you can feel like such a great parent because your child is happily moving, exploring and learning while you’re busy.
Invite your kiddo to be part of the task with you.
Invite your kiddo to be part of the task with you. Before mealtimes, let your little one crawl or walk over to the high chair, instead of you picking her up and carrying her over. If you have a pre-crawler, have her work towards sitting up for you before you pick her up. As you cook the "whatevers-in-the-fridge" casserole, hang toys or loofahs from the cabinet handles or freezer drawer handle to encourage your baby to sit and play, pull to stand, or cruise around to go get them while you cook. Or hand your toddler salad tongs to pick up cut veggies and put them into a pot. As you fold the seemingly endless laundry, let your child rifle through the clean clothes, match colors, or hide toys in the clothes for them to find.
Making these 5 simple adjustments to your mundane daily routines can make a big difference in your child's learning and growth. And you can feel super great about yourself because you are boosting your child's skills when you are just doing your daily have-to’s!
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Hi! Austen here. Portland based Pediatric OT obsessed with leggings and all things child development. Welcome to my journal! I hope to educate and empower parents and caregivers with science inspired insights, effective strategies, and confidence.