It’s a rite of passage for your little one: moving from elastic waists and onesies to big-kid pants with personalized leather belts and everything. But as grown-up as it feels to deal with zippers and buttons and buckles, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. If your youngster finds dressing stressful, a handy technique used by occupational therapists can help you teach these skills in a positive, success-filled way.
Take Small Steps
The technique known as backward chaining starts with examining a task and listing all the tiny steps it takes to do it. Those steps may have melted into one smooth motion for you over time, but for kids just starting out, each one is a challenge. For putting on a boys leather belt, for example, you might figure on one step for each belt loop, one for putting it through the buckle, one for putting the metal piece in the hole, and one for pulling the belt through the final loop that will hold it down.
Start at the End
That’s a lot of work, and your child may run out of steam by the third loop. Instead of jumping in to finish up every time, consider helping at the beginning instead. That’s where the “backward” in backward chaining comes in. Start by doing every step for your child but the last one. Thread the belt through, buckle it, and let your child tuck it through that last loop.
When your child does that last step independently, say, “Yay! You did it! Great job!” Then back up one and do everything but putting the little metal piece in the right hole. “Yay! Great job!” Then back up once more. Your child will feel capable every single time, right up to the point where you have to do no steps at all. “Great job” to you too!
Teaching your child how to buckle his or her belt doesn’t have to be frustrating for anyone involved. If you approach this new skill with a strategy in place, your little one will be buckling belts left and right before you know it.