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OT Tips for Getting your Child Winter Ready

Occupational Therapy Blog Post

Getting kids dressed to go outside in the winter can be a daunting task. On a good day it can take almost as long as the outdoor play itself. To avoid a hold up, parents will often “assist” their children with the process. Although support is great, offering too much can have long term implications. The last thing that you want is for your child to rely on the help and be unable to don winter gear in your absence.

Why not teach your child strategies early on to promote independence with this essential daily task. Listed below are five tips that can be used with pre-school aged children. Some are general tips, while others are more specific things that you can do to promote ease and efficiency with getting dressed to go outside in the winter.

1. Stickers on Boots

Children often have a have a hard time figuring out which foot goes in what shoe/boot. As a result, they may be walking around with them mixed up, impacting the ease in which they move. A nice trick to help kids with this differentiation is to cut a sticker in half, placing the right side on or inside the right boot and the left side on or inside the left boot. Something that has a clear and obvious right/left side, such as a happy face, heart, or animal, works best. The child simply places the boots together and looks out for the sticker. When the picture matches up, the child knows that the boots are on the correct side. The photos below demonstrate ideal sticker placement.

OT Tips for Getting your Child Winter Ready

2. The Flip Trick for Jackets

As adults, we often take for granted the planning and sequencing that is involved in putting on a jacket. The first step of even holding it out correctly (with it not being inside out) is hard for young children to coordinate. Low and behold, the flip trick. This foolproof method is comprised of three simple steps: laying the jacket down flat on the floor, inserting your arms into the holes, and flipping it over your head. The phrase, “Tag to toes, and over your head it goes” can be paired with the action. The flip trick is demonstrated in the attached video.

 

3. Building up Zippers

Now that the jacket is on, it’s time to zip it up…

Doing up zippers can be challenging for young children. Zippers are often made quite small, requiring refined dexterity of kids little fingers. When something is bigger, or has a larger surface area to grasp onto, the fine motor demands become less sophisticated. One way to build up a zipper involves simple items that any parent is likely to have at home – a paperclip and two durable stickers. As outlined in the photos below, the paperclip gets hooked into the hole and the two stickers sandwich it together. In less than a minute the zipper is easier to manipulate and fashionable, too! Other ideas include looping a hair elastic through the bottom or attaching a soft ball/toy to the zipper using a mini carabiner clip.

OT Tips for Getting your Child Winter Ready

4. Wearing Gloves vs. Mittens

Ever wonder why adults typically opt for gloves over mittens? Or why they now make mittens with overlays that fold back to expose the fingertips? It’s because the majority of tasks involving your hands require more than just the open and close motion that mittens provide. Think about how you do up your zipper, adjust your hat, or place buttons on a snowman. Although these tasks can theoretically be done wearing mittens, having the ability to utilize a pincer grasp (by isolating the thumb and index finger) would make them so much easier. It’s for this reason that I always recommend children wear warm gloves, as opposed to mittens, in the wintertime.

 5. Using a Visual Schedule

The order in which you put on winter gear is important. How many times have you faced this problem; your child appears to be all ready to go outside, but has forgotten to put on his/her snowpants? It’s not as simple as having him/her go back and just put them on. The gloves and boots must first come off in order for this to occur. Therefore, having some type of visual schedule, with the order specifically outlined, is a good idea. You can cut images out of magazines, draw/color pictures, or even take photos of your child engaging in the task him/herself. Posting this up in the area where your child will be dressing gives him/her something to reference. This can even be made into a fun craft project!

Although it feels like winter is creeping up on us, there still is time to get prepared. Even if you just take one recommendation from this list, try and find ways to encourage your children to be more independent with their self-care, specifically winter dressing, skills. Bundle up; they’re predicting a cold one… BRRR!

Jordana Schwarz, MSc.OT., OT Reg. (Ont.)

About Jordana Schwarz, MSc.OT., OT Reg. (Ont.)

Jordana is a certified Occupational Therapist who received a Master of Science degree in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto and an Honour’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario. Jordana is a member in good standing of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) and the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists (OSOT).

Learn more about Jordana Schwarz, MSc.OT., OT Reg. (Ont.)

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