Using Your Elves to Get Through the Holidays

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

In the hustle and bustle of the season, it is not very hard to get consumed by all the craziness and the to-dos.  No one really needs another thing to be placed on his or her to do list. As soon as the season approaches, there is a magic of excitement in the air, and it tends to last a long few weeks.  Having children over excited, tired, and in a constant state of arousal, often makes it difficult to find the fun and joy in the season. So, why not find a way to let your children help out with the holidays to-dos, be a little therapeutic and maybe even help to keep your children calm and organized.

Holiday Preparations: Tree decorating can be fun and frustrating at the same time.  Therefore, having a plan can be beneficial.  Have a table of ornaments that are safe for you children to handle available so you are not worried about the favorite ornament you received when you got married getting broken.  Or even have a tree that is safe and appropriate for them.  Tree decorating helps with fine motor control, visual scanning (because who wants all their ornaments in one spot?), and shoulder control.  

Sending cards seems to be a tradition that brings a ton of joy, but is never ending.  Children can help take some of the burden off.  Allowing them to stuff the envelopes, place address labels or stamps, and maybe even write out the address covers a wide range of skills from handwriting, fine motor precision, visual motor and sequencing skills.  

Gift-wrapping seems to be another task that as adults we find easier to do on our own, but truly can be beneficial for our children to be involved.  From sizing, to cutting and taping, wrapping addresses many of the school-based skills naturally.  In addition, it is a convenient way to pull in some bilateral skills.  This is definitely a task that takes some adult supervision.  Even wrapping with bag and tissue paper requires a lot more skill than one would think.  So, let your little elves join in the fun!

House Cleaning:  There is only a small percentage of children who actually find joy in helping out with cleaning around the house, especially after the toddler age.  So, when asking your children to take part in these tasks, it is best to make them short, specific and fun!  Letting them choose out of a random jar of Popsicle sticks with the age-appropriate chores written on them or spinning a game board spinner are fun ways to have the chore chosen.  

Cleaning to fun music, or even a set of songs that they have to try and finish the task before the songs end helps to pass the time and makes them move faster.  Tasks such as vacuuming, dusting or cleaning mirrors and windows are great ways to work on bilateral coordination, shoulder and trunk stability, as well as visual skills to ensure an entire surface is covered.  Proprioceptive input can be gained by taking out the garbage, carrying in all the holiday groceries, and transporting laundry baskets.  Allowing younger children to push and pull the baskets is just as beneficial...and once emptied throw in some vestibular input with a basket ride.  Sequencing and sorting can be accomplished through picking up the toys and random objects and then placing them in designated containers.  As well as with matching socks in the laundry.

It is important to choose tasks you are comfortable with being completed with less of an expectation.  Chores are not fun for children because as adults, we often prefer they be done our way, so the child does not feel successful.  In addition, remember, like so many other things, these tasks need to be taught by example, because children do not come out wired to be cleaners!

Kitchen: Spending time in the kitchen with your child is an excellent way to work on direction following and sequencing.  Baking is such a huge part of the holiday season, so allowing them to join in is both fun and therapeutic.  Handling cookie dough also provides that awesome tactile input.  Again, with most of these suggestions, complete these tasks when you have ample time and it can be successful on both ends.

And kids can start at an early age to wash dishes with supervision.  What better way to get the mess cleaned up?

Find your cutest little elves and get your holiday prepping done!