Here are some ways we are learning to incorporate our children in everything we do:
Kids want and need to do real work! For many children, work is play. Offer them the chance to do heavy-work activities that involve pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying…Whether your child has low stamina or is constantly on the go, heavy-work activities are therapeutically sound for all.
–Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman from Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activites to Help Every Child Develop, Learn and Grow, 2010, p.91.
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TIPS: Try to keep a schedule so young children know what to expect on certain days. For example, Tuesday may be “sorting laundry to wash” day, and Wednesday might be “sorting laundry to put away” day. Try your best to do laundry together as a family (perhaps each child can do a different task or fold his own clothes) to encourage “washboard” conversation.
YOUNG CHILDREN: When young children know what to look forward to, they may even get excited about it. If you are potty training a toddler (or an older child with FXS), loading and unloading the washing machine or dryer can reinforce the concepts of wet and dry, and naturally give “wet” the association of being “more work”.
INDEPENDENT CHILDREN: Older children may find it less exciting once they have mastered the skills of color identification and possession; you can try timing them and giving rewards for finishing fast and well such as a sticker card that can be redeemed for a favorite TV show or small toy. Show their sticker card and rewards to family members when they stop by or come home from work. Praise them for their effort and from that task-based praise let them develop their own identity as a capable, hard worker!
TWEENS & TEENS: Preteens can be encouraged to do laundry for allowance. Teens can be encouraged that doing laundry is a part of adult life; if they want to live independently and keep the privileges of an adult, they need to learn to do as many chores as they can independently. Praise for being mature and independent goes a long way to encourage a Teen, as does assurance that they will do fine when they are on their own. Talking while distracted by a task like laundry can be a great way to get Teens to open up, provided that you listen (which I find very hard to do! I love to give “input” and am still learning to wait until asked!).
The washing machine:
- SORTING: if your clothes are not too dirty, you can have children sort them into colors. This is a great way to practice their color repertoire. You can even teach them tints and hues! Start with basic colors (“blue”) until those are mastered, move on to “light” and “dark” colors (“dark blue”) until those are mastered, and then start naming the colors as best as you can (Navy Blue). Consult your large Crayon box to find out the names: this is not the time to know everything, you’ll learn more together and make it seem more fun! Even if it takes a little extra time, have your child find the closest color crayon in the box, hold it next to the item of clothing, and repeat the name.
- LOADING: it is up to you whether or not you want children to load the washing machine. I do not because our clothes are usually heavily soiled from playing in the mud and bathroom accidents. I can filter clothes for them to sort, but I insist on loading our machine. If your clothes are not too dirty, you can have children drop or push (depending on the style of your washing machine) clothes into the washing machine. Young children will especially appreciate the tactile processing and directionality (helps with knowing the difference between up, down, left right: good for map reading and math). You can encourage binocularity (ability to use both eyes together for depth perception, etc.) if you insist children use BOTH hands simultaneously (bilateral coordination) to load the washing machine.
- UNLOADING: Children can pull to their hearts content to fill a basket placed next to the washing machine. Pulling hand-over-hand encourages laterality (moving parts of the body independently: helps children to use a knife and fork and play musical instruments) and dropping clothes into the basket encourages directionality. This activity will reinforce tactile processing, as well as require proprioceptive (muscle and joint awareness) and vestibular (gravity awareness) senses to resist the heavy weight of the wet clothes.
- LOADING: Like unloading the washing machine, this activity will reinforce tactile processing and directionality, as well as require proprioceptive and vestibular senses to resist the heavy weight of the wet clothes. Remember to encourage binocularity by insisting that children use BOTH hands simultaneously to load the dryer.
- UNLOADING: Children can pull to their hearts content to fill a basket placed next to the dryer. Pulling hand-over-hand encourages laterality (moving parts of the body independently: helps children to use a knife and fork and play musical instruments) and dropping clothes into the basket encourages directionality.
- CARRYING: Carry dry clothes together, if they are not too heavy, to an open space where you can sort them. Carrying a weighty basket together over a distance will reinforce vestibular processing, proprioception, dynamic balance, body awareness, directionality, motor planning, and spatial awareness.
- SORTING: Create piles for each member of the family short distances away from the laundry basket and have children sit between you (with the basket) and the piles. Hand clothing to children (see questions to ask below) and insist that they look at the item before you give it to them by moving it around until they focus on and grab it (this encourages visual tracking which helps children to read). Encouraging the child to stay between you and the piles will encourage him to reach across his body to take laundry from you to place in the piles: this reinforces midline crossing (helps with writing and putting together two sides of something). Sorting laundry into categories is a wonderful way to reinforce the ideas of possession and association. Try asking young children, “What is this?” Followed by, “Is this an item of clothing?” If it is not clothing, encourage a child to put it in a “home” pile. If it is clothing, proceed with “WHOSE is this?” If no answer, try “WHO does it belong to?” Give a moment of silence for them to answer; if they do not answer or answer incorrectly,say “It is Tony’s. This shirt belongs to Tony. Put it in Tony’s pile!” If it is the child’s own pile, encourage them to say, “It’s MINE! Put it in MY pile!”