Chain Those Kids!

March 14, 2018

So there is always the temptation right? A few strong chains makes all the difference when it comes to teaching your kids a new skill. 


Of course I am talking about the teaching/learning strategy of Backward Chaining. Its a method Occupational Therapists use for teaching new skills witch eliminates 'failed attempts' and builds confidence and motivation.





To create a chain you first need to break down the activity into discrete parts, for example:

Tying Shoes

  1. Cross laces above the shoe.

  2. Pass one lace underneath the cross you have created

  3. Pull laces tight

  4. Create a loop with one lace, pinching the lace against itself at the base of the shoe

  5. Swoop the other lace around the loop

  6. Thread the middle of the other lace through the hole we just made to create another loop

  7. Pull it tight

Easy right?


Now most of us when we are teaching children a new skill, we start with the vary first task (in this case, it would be crossing the laces, then passing one lace underneath, and so on. This often leads to a number of failed attempts before we finally achieve success in tying our shoelaces. 


However in children, its very important to consider their confidence and motivation as they learn such a skill. Which is why its much better when we teach the chain in reverse!


Backwards Chaining 

When teaching your child the skill, you would do the first 6 steps yourself. Once you have completed #6 you ask the child then to pull the lace tight (#7). Then give them loads of praise and encouragement, saying "look you finished tying the shoe! Well done!". From their point of view, they have already had success and they are much more likely to try again! Half your battle is already done!


Once they have #7 down, then have them do #6 too. So basically you do everything else, create the loop, swoop the opposite lace and then have them pull it through the hole then pull it tight. Give lots of praise and encouragement again!


When they have those two down, and seeing at they are getting so much praise, they should be more than happy to do it again. So next, do the first few steps yourself and then have them do #5 (swooping the lace around the loop) prior to doing #6 putting the lace through the hole and #7 (pulling it tight).


You get where I am going with this right? Eventually, step by step they will have learned to tie their laces without one single failed attempt!


You can apply this to anything. How about doing buttons? Here is the chain:


Fastening Buttons

  1. Line up the button with the matching hole on the opposite side of the shirt

  2. Using the hand on the same side as the buttons, pinch the button with index and thumb.

  3. With your other hand, bring the button and the hole together

  4. Place the edge of the button in the hole on the underside of the shirt

  5. Push the button through with your thumb

A backward chain would look like this. You do the first 4 steps for them and say "ok, use your thumb to push the button through...", once they do that, shower with praise! Then next time, have them line up the button and the hole (#4) and then push it through (#5), and so on.


Then just keep working your way backwards with each new attempt and eventually your little cherub will be tying shoelaces and doing buttons (or any other skill you teach them for that matter) with ease!

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