Self-care is a part of daily living and includes any actions you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. For our school-aged children, self-care includes activities such as personal care (bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding), and functional mobility within the school environment (navigating classrooms, cafeteria, playground, and getting to and from school).

It is important to establish routines for children to learn to manage their personal daily hygiene, nutrition, exercise, getting dressed, table manners, dealing with common illnesses such as a cold, managing stress, etc.




Self-dressing requires fine motor skill development at every step! For example, managing:

  • Socks: requires a pinch grip, strength in the hands and wrists, and the ability to use both hands together (bilateral coordination).

  • Pants: requires eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and wrist and hand stability.

  • Shirts: requires bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, muscle strength of the hands, and forearm supinaton and pronation.

  • Clothing fasteners such as buttons, zippers, snaps, buckles, and ties require intrinsic and extrinsic muscle strength, prehension grasp, in-hand manipulation, hand preference and bilateral control and eye-hand coordination.

Shoe Tying

Shoe Tying

If your child is willing this is a great time to practice shoe tying. Have fun with it, it doesn't have to be on the shoe! You could even practice with a jump rope, or pipe cleaners (2 different colored pipe cleaners could be used with the cardboard or you could attach the pipe cleaners to a real shoe).


Child shoe tying

Repetition and practice are the key with learning this skill. Below are the 3 steps of shoe tying. You could work on one step at a time until your child understands that step and can complete without any difficulty.



Personal hygiene is something that is embedded throughout the day both at school and at home. These tasks also involve fine motor skills, memory and attention. Kids may need help with some of the steps required to wash hands, brush teeth, bathe/shower, and toileting. Visual schedules (link below) or checklists can be helpful to remember all of the steps. Daily practice and repetition are important to be successful and independent with these skills.

You should wash your hands for 20 seconds. Singing the Happy Birthday song or saying the alphabet slowly takes about 20 seconds.

Tips to Promote Independence in Dressing Skills

Children should be provided with many repetitions of self-care skills in environments where dressing tasks are happening naturally.

  • Dressing practice happens at the beginning and end of the day but there are many opportunities for working on the fine motor skills needed in dressing tasks.

  • Donning shoes and socks can happen before going outdoors and when coming into the home.

  • Toileting is a way to practice lower body clothing management throughout the day.

  • Children can further build independence with dressing through pretend play by using dress-up clothes.

  • Repetition can be a strategy for increasing opportunities for practice.

  • Provide various dress-up clothes in different social roles for many ways to practice dressing skills.

  • Encourage role play as a technique to build fine motor skills in dressing: Children can dress a baby doll.

  • Provide alternate opportunities to practice fine motor skills needed for dressing such as toys to help kids practice dressing skills.

Helpful Hints

  • Visual schedule of the steps involved.

  • Reward chart for independent completion of tasks (or attempt at, in the early stages).

  • Small steps: Breaking down self-care skills into smaller steps and supporting the child through each step so that, in time, they can do more for themselves.

  • Routine: Use the same routine or strategy each time you complete the same task to help them learn it faster.

  • Consistency: Be consistent with the words and signs used to assist the child, and keep instructions short and simple.

  • Allow enough time: Ensure that there is enough time available for the child to participate in self care activities without feeling rushed (e.g. practice dressing on the weekend to start with before then doing it before rushing to preschool or school).

  • Observation: Have your child to observe other family members performing everyday self care skills.

  • Take care of others: Allow the child to brush your hair or teeth first, before brushing their own.

  • Timers to indicate how long they must tolerate an activity they may not enjoy, such as teeth cleaning.

Free Printable Daily Visual ScheduleFree printable visual schedule for kids