It’s Not Boring, It’s Essential: How Routines and Practice Help Children Learn
When caregivers find out that occupational, physical, or speech therapy may help their child, therapy “homework” may come as a surprise. Therapy sessions one or two times a week will support a child to build foundations for improved developmental skills, but when those areas are addressed on a daily basis, at home or in other environments, the improvements will be faster. The secret to making these rapid improvements is the integration of therapeutic activities into daily routines.
What are routines?
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (2020), “routines are established sequences of occupations or activities that provide a structure for daily life.” Routines happen at home, school, afterschool programs, and during transitions from one setting to the next. An example of a routine is what happens in the home every morning of a school day. The morning routine may include waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, and getting the backpack ready. Daily routines are important for children because they are predictable, functional, and occur throughout the day (Woods, Kashinath, & Goldstein, 2004). For caregivers and therapists, daily routines are important because each activity that occurs within a routine offers an opportunity for a child to practice a new skill.
How do routines support practice?
Learning new skills takes practice, and multiple repetitions of a new skill are necessary. Research on how children learn shows that distributing opportunities for practice throughout the day improves learning (Zwicker & Harris, 2009). Integrating developmental interventions into daily routines allows caregivers to address the child’s developmental needs without taking extra time throughout the day to add ONE MORE thing into an already busy schedule. By incorporating practice into routines, caregivers are able to provide practice at times that are convenient to them and fit the natural rhythms of family life.
How does Kinspire support learning?
Using Kinspire, providers and families can work together to figure out the best way to incorporate activities into family routines so the child engages in the activities throughout the day and week. During the morning routine, the child can crab walk from one room to the next, as they get ready for school. While getting dressed, the child can practice imitating body postures in front of the mirror. After school, they can choose two play activities and spend five minutes with each activity, such as keeping a balloon up and the upside-down wall walk. Both are easy activities that the child can do on their own, providing less interruption to the caregiver’s routine. For the evening routine, blowing bubbles with a long straw in the tub or doing calming breath work before bed will help a child to wind down.
Integrating therapeutic activities into daily routines is a win-win! Caregivers support their child’s development, and children have fun throughout the day.
Christine Myers, PhD, OTR/L is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy where she serves as the director of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at the University of Florida.