OT Time!

Self-Care Strategies


Tips to Consider for All Self-Care Strategies:

  • Break it down. – Tasks with multiple steps may be overwhelming. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Visuals with labeled steps (words or pictures) may be beneficial.
  • Help the right way at the right time. – It is important not to give too much or too little help. Try to understand the level of help your child needs and proceed accordingly.
  • Try backward chaining for challenging tasks. – Let your child complete the final step of the task in order for he/she to feel successful and gain confidence.
  • Make things easy while learning. – Compensatory strategies are a great way to increase independence while learning new skills. If shoe tying is a new task being learned, use slip-on style shoes or shoes with Velcro, so your child can participate independently.
  • Build skills through play. – Many self-care skills derive from underlying skills that can be addressed through play skills. Think about the basic skills needed to complete the self-care tasks you are trying to teach.
  • Practice at tabletop level or on practice boards. – If applicable, it is much easier to learn a skill when you can see everything that you are doing. Be sure to orient the board or shirt/jacket/shoe properly on the table so the skill will eventually translate over to wearing the specific article of clothing.

*If working on management of clothing worn, be sure clothing isn’t too tight.



  • Pincer grasp activities – string beads, clothespins, tongs, stickers
  • Start with large buttons
  • Use different color stickers on buttons and next to button hole to help with lining up button to correct side



  • Interchange sides of 2 contrasting colored zippers; can also use nail polish to paint one side
  • Attach key ring to zipper to pull up easier
  • Use a sticker to show child where to hold jacket when pulling up zipper


Shoe Tying

  • Use 2 different color shoe laces
  • After progressing from tabletop level, tie laces around thigh
  • Explore different shoe tying methods; YouTube videos

Specific questions or comments?

Contact your school’s occupational therapist!


Visit the ACES Extension Therapy Services Pinterest Page and check out the “Self-Care” board for more ideas! Search: acesets


Information Compiled by Melissa Lavorgna, MOT, OTR/L


This information is also available as a printable handout.