Like all children, learning about careers starts very early in life. We all observe activities that our parents and others do each day that constitutes their job or career. We may not understand what a “job” is yet, but we begin to associate certain tasks and places with jobs that people do. We also begin to see the tasks that members of our family take on as chores. At some point most of us have an interest in helping the adults or siblings with these tasks.
Frequently children with significant disabilities become exempt from these experiences due to the challenges they face physically or cognitively. This is unfortunate because everyone enjoys the feeling of contributing and helping others. It is part of our self-identity.
For children who are not ready to share the work or take on a task with limited assistance, activities may need to be focused on exploration of materials used in a task such as making their morning breakfast. Later they may be able to offer the needed item to someone else who completes the more difficult step such as folding clothes. Don’t underestimate the value of these types of activities.
All children, even those with significant disabilities can find ways to contribute to their family or friends. This also can lend itself to some wonderful Active Learning activities.
- Give a child who is just beginning to grasp items a basket of warm or wet clothes so they can help by grabbing items to give to a sibling or adult to fold, put in the dryer, or hang up.
- Let the child use a water hose to water plants in the yard.
- Let the child carry a small trash can (in their lap if they use a wheelchair) to a larger garbage bin to empty.
- Visit a fire station and explore the truck, hoses, etc. then come home to play fireman using garden hose.
- Before or after a visit to the doctor, explore items like stethoscope, tongue depressors, thermometer, pin lights, syringes (without needles), and blood pressure devices.
- Have the child sort recyclables into metal, plastic, paper bins.
- Brush the dog or cat.
- Feed pets.
- Take a walk with the dog.
- Paint outside walls using paintbrushes and buckets of water.
- Put away toys into a bin or box. This might be a good “throwing” activity for children who need to throw.
- Put clothing into the washing machine or dryer.
- Put money earned for “chores” into a piggy bank then at some point go to the store and buy something.
- Cook a simple dish like instant pudding, smoothie, cooked cereal.
- Help bake cookies and give them to a neighbor.
- Pass out books, treats, or papers to peers in the classroom.
- Use a duster to dust a table or the floor.
- Polish a table with a soft rag, consider the smell associated with furniture polish.
- Carry dirty dishes to the sink. You can place a small plastic tub in the lap or on the tray of a child in a wheelchair.
- Carry the mail into the house.
- Put away clean clothes in a drawer or bin.