Therapy at Home: Chores



With many Queensland children set to “learn from home” for the first 5 weeks of Term 2, parents are understandably feeling anxious about the new role that they will play in their child’s education. This is especially stressful for parents of children with disabilities.

It’s important to recognise parents aren’t expected to “teach” their children in the same way that teachers do in school. As parents, there are lots of “life lessons” we can teach our kids at home and have some fun along the way.

A great idea is to get your child learning new skills by participating in chores around the house. There’s no reason why kids with varying abilities can’t be involved in household chores, and with us all spending more time at home, now is a good opportunity to get started!

The benefits

There are so many benefits to getting your child to help out with chores, to the best of their ability. They include:

  • increasing independence and in particular independent living skills
  • opportunity to practice motor skills
  • exploration of new sensory experiences
  • development of cognitive skills such as problem solving
  • fostering a sense of equality (with siblings and peers)
  • being responsible for contributing meaningful tasks for a household unit (demonstrating trust and building esteem through achievement)
  • easing parent’s workload (…eventually! It may be more work at first)
  • research suggests that participation in chores at home is a determinant of future employment

Why don’t some children with disabilities engage in chores?

If your child hasn’t been participating in chores to date then that’s absolutely fine! There are lots of reasons why parents of children with a disability don’t actively encourage their kids to participate in chores. These include:

  • parental (and societal) expectations
  • time pressure (“it’s easier to do it myself”)
  • cultural differences in the expectations of children
  • children tend to dislike being presented with “chores” and can lack interest or motivation to participate
  • it may be physically or behaviorally difficult to perform the expected tasks
  • children with disabilities often already have a lot of expectations to engage in non-preferred activities (such as therapies, appointments, equipment trials)

How do I get started?

These are not ideas for you to “make your child work”. Focus on nurturing an interest and developing an expectation of responsibility. Consider your child’s strengths and abilities when assigning or considering new chores.

  • Start simple and with their interests. What they would like to help with? If they have no ideas see list of suggestions below for inspiration. Pinterest is also currently full of chore lists due to COVID-19.
  • Start with self-care. Can they complete more components of grooming? Can they prepare and pack away items required to brush their teeth? Can they be the one to collect a new loo roll?
  • Make chores fun. Let a little Mary Poppins into your life. Play music. Sing. Dance. Make chores a competition. Whatever works for your family.
  • Daily routine. Divide your day up and see if you can include any chores. What does setting the table look like? Could your child carry their favourite sauce to the table? Could they be responsible for ringing a bell to tell everyone it is dinner time?
  • Expectation. If chores are done daily they are more likely to become habit. Visual aids and schedules can help with this.
  • Scaffold the skill. Start off doing a new task together and gradually remove supports.
  • Shared chores. Sometimes parts of a chore are better attempted when a sibling is involved than a parent. Could one child wipe the table, one collect plates, and one set the table? Identify the most appropriate person for each part of the chore.
  • Set up for success. Don’t ask them to complete something unachievable. Do not have an adult sized activity. A chore does not need to be hours of work. A single task of short duration is more likely to be completed, celebrate the “wins” and make this a positive experience.
  • Low expectations. Tasks won’t be completed perfectly and that’s ok! Or, if oddly paired socks bother you, then consider giving your child a different task.
  • Seek support. Reach out to your therapy team if you’re having difficulty with a chore your child is close to being able to participate in or a chore they identify an interest in. They will look at the additional support your child needs. Can your physiotherapist assist with strength building? Could your OT suggest assistive technology? Could your speech pathologist help add some new phrases to their vocabulary?

Chores as home therapy

The activity of pushing a laundry basket and sorting it, or of washing windows may not seem like “therapy”. However, there are lots of ways that chores encourage your child to meet their therapy goals. While taking part in chores they can be working on:

  • following instructions
  • standing practice
  • crossing the midline
  • fine motor strength
  • sensory regulation
  • communication
  • stability and balance
  • sorting
  • bilateral hand skills
  • problem Solving
  • social skills
  • sequencing and organisation
  • and so many more!

A few ideas to get you started

Here are some simple ideas to get you and your child started.

  • pack away toys or other items
  • put PJ’s onto their bed
  • feed pets
  • put dirty clothes in laundry hamper
  • sort the recycling
  • sort the laundry (match socks, piles for each family member)
  • water the plants
  • weed the path or driveway (my kids adore doing this and I can’t stand it)
  • take the garbage bin out
  • wash the car
  • make a shopping list (could use technology, taking photos)

We’re here to help

We all want our children to be contributing members of society and this can start at home in the form of chores! If you’d like your child to participate more in household chores but you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help. Get in touch with your therapist we can start to problem solve together.