I really enjoyed putting together the Chores for Young Children entry, what OTs might call IADLs. Here is the compliment- the ADL for young children, between 6-18 months.
Obviously kids are mostly reliant on mom and dad for care, but as they get older and more able to interact with the world, they can begin self care tasks with support. These skills necessarily overlap with gross motor skills and communication skills. If you have a child who is having trouble learning a new skills, you may need to isolate down to only a component instead of asking for a motor response and a communication response simultaneously.
When I think of basic ADL/self care, I think of feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, and toileting. (It's the FIM training in me). I will address those areas.
One of the first self care tasks that a child can do is eating. Very young children can learn to put their hand to the bottle or breast to focus on hand to mouth activity, and 5-6 month olds may hold their own bottle. (most recommendations are for a child to not take a bottle to bed with them, FYI) If you introduce foods around this time, a child can actively participate. Yogurt or thickened cereal will stick to a spoon pretty easily, and the child can dip the spoon instead of scooping, and start feeding themselves. They will likely need assistance for much of the meal, but starting this bit of independence early is very important.
Grooming is another area where young kids can participate early. With a soft bristled brush, a child can brush their own hair after a demonstration even before 12 months. If you use baby wipes or a wet washcloth to clean up after meals, provide a second one for the child to work on their own hands and face first. The third part of grooming is brushing teeth, which can be a battle for some kids. However, we started with a set of graduated brushes by Nuby that move from being all rubber to having bristles. This worked well for my son and he loves to imitate us and move the toothbrush himself. Your mileage may vary- the mouth is a very sensitive area!
My baby loves bathtime, but again, this can be a struggle for some kids. Keeping the bathroom warm and steamy by running the shower beforehand can be helpful. As your baby starts to learn words for their body parts, they can better understand lifting that part for washing or using their own washcloth to help. They may even enjoy dumping rinse water on themselves. In a related way, my son loves to help apply his lotion after bathtime. We put a little squirt on his stomach or legs and he works on rubbing it in.
When it comes to dressing, it is easier to take something off than put it on. So very young children will work on doffing hats, socks, and pullover bibs. Then you will start to see the child help you put his arms through shirts and take a more active role in dressing. By 18 months, the child can play at dressing with spare, larger clothing in free time. Be forewarned, he might start undressing in awkward places! Doffing clothes before bathtime is often a good time to practice. You can begin work on fasteners by undoing velcro closures on shoes, though getting them off his feet may still need help.
Finally is toileting! You can teach your baby to change his own diaper in 2 easy steps! Really? Of course not, just checking to see if anyone is reading this far! But it is realistic to have an older child (~15 months) carry the clean diaper to the changing table, and tap his hips or tummy to indicate that he has a dirty diaper. I do have friends who potty trained very young, but at this point we're just working on indicating so that he can concentrate on other skills.
What do you think? Are there additional strategies or self care tasks for toddlers that you'd like to share? Please let me know!