Developing Independence in Children

Let’s talk about the most important thing of each of our lives :- ADL i.e. Activities of Daily Living 
Occupational therapy is nothing but to get children, adults and geriatric population back to their “occupation” . Now by Occupation I mean their Activities of Daily Living 
Your ADL could be anything that you do from the start of the day till the end of the day including smallest things like turning over in your bed. If you have difficulty in any of the daily living activities, we come into picture🤗 
We make use of exercises, activities, strategies, adaptive equipment, splinting, play ;etc to get a kid/adult/elderly back to normal functioning and back to doing his/her ADL 😍

INDEPENDENCE IN ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING FOR KIDS

1.SELF FEEDING

  • It gives baby independence: They may be teeny-tiny, but our little guys want to be taken seriously. As babies learn to pick up food, drink from a cup, and use cutlery to (eventually) get food to their mouths, they are building a greater sense of autonomy. It’s through doing things for themselves, and having some independence that babies get to explore the process of eating and the nature of food.
  • It helps development fine motor skills: By scooping (also known as ‘raking’) food with their whole hand, by developing the pincer grip, and by practising to use a spoon and fork, babies are training their muscles and learning valuable coordination skills. As time goes on, these important skills and baby’s dexterity will continue to improve, standing bub in good stead for the seriously busy years ahead.
  • Babies learn to monitor their own needs: Through self-feeding, babies are more able to respond to hunger and to stop eating once they are full, preventing overeating. They also get the hang of how much to bite and how long to chew before swallowing.
  • It’s brilliant sensory play: Yes, play! Because it is through play that babies learn about their world. Touching, feeling, squishing, and mashing food, which comes with such varied textures, is something babies love to do and an important part of their development.
  • It’s rewarding – for you and baby: As babies progress along the path of self-feeding (and systematically stain every bib and t-shirt they have) their confidence will soar. For mums and dads, by standing back and watching baby feed himself you can learn more about your child’s food preferences and their particular style of eating. Of course, you also get your hands and a little time back, which is always welcome. Get ready to overflow with pride at your clever little bub’s new knack for eating.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO INDUCE SELF FEEDING IN KIDS?

Well, it is not very difficult to teach your kids to self-feed. Remember children must develop their own relationship with food if you want them to feed themselves. They should never feel they are eating to please their parents. 
Here are a few tips that can be handy when you are trying for your kid to self-feed:-

1. Self-feeding is not just about eating but also about opening or closing containers, pouring, measuring and mixing stuff 
2. As parents, we want to make things easier for our kiddos by doing all their work.
3. Hence, kids don’t get enough practise at home , so when their school begins they are often left waiting for an adult to open their tiffin for lunch . 
4. So begin by providing them safe opportunities at home to open/close container, pour liquid from one glass to another, help in mixing ;etc 
5. Another important thing, let them feel that meal time is not a stressful time. Emphasize on eating but don’t make it stressful by filling the plate full of food. Rather, keep minimal quantity in plate, and ask of they need more. 
6. Use funny faces and quirky decor with food, use colourful veggies and fruits . This helps in generating interest for food 
7. I am a firm believer that spoons do have a place in baby led weaning. Here’s a technique to induce spoon feeding in your child :-

  • preload spoon or fork with food
  • hand it over to your child
  • meanwhile fill another spoon and keep
  • offer it to your child once the food in previous spoon is finished 


8. This helps in motor skills, promotes independence, it’s definitely messy but more fun for kids. 
9. Help your child to practise “dipping” and “scooping” in food with the spoon. 
10. Every day present him/her with the opportunity of eating by self . Try using your child’s favourite food when trying to make them independent in feeding 
Few easy strategies and messy table tops😝 , that’s what it would take for independence in Feeding ❤️

2. BRUSHING

With children especially small children everything can be a battle. Every parent knows how something small and simple can quickly turn into a problem when your child just doesn’t want to cooperate. A smart parent learns how to pick and choose these battles, knowing when to hold firm and when to give a little. You always want what’s best for your child, but sometimes what is best is not necessarily what the child wants to hear.

For some kids, the task of brushing their teeth is one of those things that can become a struggle. Even if you do everything you can to make it fun and comfortable for the child, they may not be in the mood from time to time. However, oral hygiene is important for people of all ages, so finding a way to get this done on a regular basis is in your child’s best interest.

Even though your young children may not be eating much in the way of solid food when their teeth first come in, it is still important to care for those teeth. In addition to keeping those first teeth as clean as possible, you’ll also be setting a good precedent moving forward. With this habit established as early as your child can remember, he or she will just think of it as part of day to day life. Rather than trying to introduce the idea of brushing teeth when your child is old enough to argue, get started young and it should carry forward without any trouble. 
Remember to make them brush regularly, clean between their teeth, have a balanced diet! 🧡 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO INDUCE SELF BRUSHING IN KIDS?
Fun Ways to Encourage Teeth Brushing:

1. Get a new toothbrush.
2. Let your child pick the flavour of the toothpaste.
3. Brush together.
4. Create a reward system.
5.Electric toothbrush enhance the sensory experience and also may help children develop fondness for brushing, especially for those who avoid brushing 
6. Use songs as a routine while brushing 
7. Mirror is a great way for visual feedback while brushing 
8.Make your kid practise brushing on a soft toy while doing pretend play 

3. BATHING

BATH TIME can be one of the most stressful times of the day for parents and children. Parents often struggle with making sure their children are safe and clean in a reasonable amount of time, and children often resist bath time altogether.

  • Yet bathing oneself safely is an important developmental skill for children to learn as they become more independent.
  • When children practise self-help skills, they practise their large and small motor skills, gain confidence in their ability to try new things and build their self- esteem and pride in their independence🧡

WHAT CAN WE DO TO DEVELOP INDEPENDENCE IN BATHING SKILLS?
Bath time is one place where a child can learn independence fairly quickly. This doesn’t have to be stressful. Bath time should be fun and easy for everyone. Here’s a couple of stress-free things we do to teach independence at bath time, and hopefully it’ll ease the pressure of always having to do everything perfectly!

Stress-Free Ways to Teach Independence at Bath Time:-
Encourage them to undress and pick out their pyjamas.

Have them turn on the water. Something about giving a child a small responsibility makes them feel important.

  • Let them pick out the bath toys they plan to play with. I don’t know about you, but the kids’ bathtub is overrun by toys. As an attempt to ease the clutter, you can let the kids pick 3 toys they want to play with during the bath.
  • Ask them how much time they want to play, and set a timer. Instead of telling them “you get to play for five minutes before we get out,” ask them “how long would you like to play before we have to get out?” More often than not, they will say something like “five minutes” or “three minutes.” You can then set a timer on your phone. When the timer goes off, it makes getting out much less of a struggle.
  • Have them wash their body.
  • Make them wash their toys during pretend play and emphasise on bathing for the toys. It’s a nice way for them to practise.

4. MEAL PREPS

Every day, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep for the night, you’re performing “activities of daily living,” otherwise known as ADLs. ADLs are basic self-care tasks that we expect all individuals tomaster: like getting dressed and undressed, feeding yourself, brushing your teeth, taking a shower and going to the bathroom.


When we talk about “instrumental activities of daily living,” or IADLs, we are referring to the higher level skills that are required to not only take care of yourself, but to live independently. Examples of IADLs include activities such as meal prep, chores, cleaning, managing money and taking public transportation.

All children are raised with the goal of helping them become independent young adults
Instrumental skills should be introduced early and incorporated into your family’s daily routine. By doing this, you can naturally provide the time, supervision and practice required for children .
Benefits of letting kids help with meal prep-:

  • Kids learn to cook (or at least make themselves a meal)
  • Kids develop fine motor skills: Spreading jam on toast, chopping vegetables, sprinkling toppings… All of these tasks require the use of muscles that children are still developing.
  • Kids learn a sense of responsibility: When kids have jobs to do to help the family run, they realize they’re an important part of the team.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO TEACH KIDS HELP IN MEAL PREPS?


Here are 5 tips to successfully get your kids involved in meal prep:-
1. Balance is Key-: Teach them about the nutrients they need for a healthy lifestyle and how to balance their meals.
2. Let them make decisions-:
It’s important for kids to feel that they’re not just helping in the kitchen. Meal prep shouldn’t be a chore for them, rather something they feel is fun. Sit ‘em down with a recipe book and let them flip through (with your guidance, of course). Once they choose a healthy recipe you somewhat agree with, they’ll be more enthusiastic about making it.
3. Delegate-:
If you have more than one child, delegating tasks can help speed up the process while allowing them to take ownership of a certain aspect of the meal. Trust them with tasks such as preparing the ingredients, stirring the pot under your watch, and even clean up!
5. Get them to measure-:
Teaching your children how to measure quantities of ingredients and how to portion the meals is imperative to healthy eating. You can have too much of a good thing. Educating your kids on how much of a certain food is a healthy amount and how much is overindulging can help them make better choices later.
6. Let them be creative-:
Meal preparation doesn’t have to be by the book. Everything from ingredients to container choices is negotiable. If they want to cut vegetables in a funky way, pick random containers (that are reasonably sized), or even add random ingredients that may work–be open to it!

5. TOILETING

Learning all about the importance of clean and healthy toileting habits is a significant step in a child’s life. Some children pick up potty skills quickly, while others need parental support and plenty of patience.
The term ‘toilet training’ basically refers to teaching young children to use the potty or toilet for urination and defecation


Many parents are unsure about the best age to start toilet training. Not all children develop at the same rate, or will be prepared for toilet training at the same age, so it’s essential to observe your child for physical cues. Looking for these signs will help you to know when your little one is getting ready to go.
A child must be mentally and emotionally ready for toilet training.


Instead of using age, look for signs that your child may be ready to start heading for the potty, such as being able to:

  • follow simple instructions.
  • understand and use words about using the potty.
  • make the connection between the urge to pee or poop and using the potty.
  • keep a diaper dry for 2 hours or more.
  • get to the potty, sit on it for enough time, and then get off the potty.
  • pull down diapers, disposable training pants, or underpants.
  • show an interest in using the potty or wearing underpants.


Most children begin to show these signs when they’re between 18 and 24 months old, though some may not be ready until later than that. And boys often start later and take longer to learn to use the potty than girls.


How Long Does Toilet Training Take?
Teaching a toddler to use the potty isn’t an overnight task. It often takes between 3 and 6 months, but can take more or less time for some children. If you start too soon, the process tends to take longer. And it can take months to even years to master staying dry at night.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO TOILET TRAIN THEM?
Toilet Training:-

  • Set aside some time to devote to the potty-training process.
  • Don’t make your child sit on the toilet against his or her will.
  • Show your child how you sit on the toilet and explain what you’re doing (because your child learns by watching you).
  • Establish a routine. For example, you may want to begin by having your child sit on the potty after waking with a dry diaper, or 45 minutes to an hour after drinking lots of liquids. Only put your child on the potty for a few minutes a couple of times a day, and let your child get up if he or she wants to.
  • Have your child sit on the potty within 15 to 30 minutes after meals to take advantage of the body’s natural tendency to have a bowel movement after eating (this is called the gastro-colic reflex). Also, many kids have a time of day they tend to have a bowel movement.
  • Ask your child to sit on the potty if you see clear clues of needing to go to the bathroom, such as crossing legs, grunting, or squatting.
  • Empty a bowel movement (poop) from your child’s diaper into the toilet, and tell your child that poop goes in the potty.
  • Avoid clothes that are hard to take off, such as overalls and shirts that snap in the crotch. Kids who are potty training need to be able to undress themselves.
  • Offer your child small rewards, such as stickers or time reading, every time your child goes in the potty. Keep a chart to track of successes. Once your little one appears to be mastering the use of the toilet, let him or her pick out a few new pairs of big-kid underwear to wear.
  • Make sure all caregivers — including babysitters, grandparents, and childcare workers — follow the same routine and use the same names for body parts and bathroom acts. * Praise all attempts to use the toilet, even if nothing happens. And remember that accidents will happen. It’s important not to punish potty-training children or show disappointment when they wet or soil themselves or the bed. Instead, tell your child that it was an accident and offer your support.

INDEPENDENCE IS IMPORTANT AS IT PROMOTES CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM AS WELL AS MOTIVATION AND PERSEVERANCE IN SCHOOL. IT FOSTERS SELF -RELIANCE, ALLOWING YOUR CHILD TO FEEL THEY CONTROL OVER THEIR LIFE….. IT TEACHES THEM SELF-MOTIVATION AS THEY HAVE THE FREEDOM TO FIND THEIR OWN REASONS TO ACHIEVE.

Dr. Hetal Dave
Dr. Hetal Dave is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist working in the field of Paediatrics with an experience of over 6 years. She has a special training in treating kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder from Com DEALL, Banglore (2015). She is certified in Hanen’s Early Communication for delay in communication from Hanen’s Centre, Australia (2017). She is also certified in Sensory Integration from the University of Southern California (2018).

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