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You’ve read time and time again the importance of play for young children. But what happens when coupled with the challenges learning how to play, your child struggles with executive functioning skills (motor planning, memory, problem solving, memory, reasoning, task flexibility) and fine motor development? What can you do?

Here’s an activity that helps in multiple ways.

For one, visual prompts allow the child to follow a picture check off system to complete tasks. This check off system can lead to other much needed visual independent systems such as this one:

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For older children, it looks like this:

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The child engaged in this activity gets indirect practice in self help skills, fine motor skills (pulling, grasping, zipping, buttoning) and executive functioning skills (planning what comes next and muscle memory)

So, how do you get started? I found this Build A Bear from the thrift store and was fortunate enough to have found clothes to match on the same day for under $6.00. I quickly grabbed my smart phone, took photos and printed the photos. Next, I glued them to a piece of paper and within minutes I turned a simple activity to an activity with multiple learning opportunities. Children love stuffed animals, so why not include much needed learning skills in the process? A win-win, correct?

It is with hopes that through repetition this leads to playing with peers when engaged in dramatic play such as “dress up” where skills in large gross motor must work in conjunction with fine motor skills. In addition, once they’ve assumed a role, the child develops cognitive structures by playing out what they see and hear in their world. It is through this reenactment and play with others that other skills are practiced and are developed such as empathy, negotiation, compromise, imagination and creativity. Lastly through repetition and engaging in an activity such as ‘dressing a bear with visual prompts’, the hope is that this leads to independence in dressing themselves!

Each child is different and develops at different rates. I hope at most this provides you with inspiration to tailor this activity to your child’s specific interests because when they’re interested, you have an automatic motivating factor to develop intrinsic learning. And let’s face it, we all rely on visual prompts. Imagine our world without them! Starting our children early leads to success for them in the future! Don’t be afraid of visual aides (prompts) and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!