How Can Occupational Therapy Help Your Child Develop Self-Care Skills?

Amisha Gandhi

17 November 2023

Every parent knows the joy and pride that comes from watching their child grow, learn, and become more independent. From those first wobbly steps to the day they tie their shoelaces or button their own shirt, these small but significant achievements mark the journey of childhood. One of the most important facets of a child’s development is the acquisition of self-care skills. These abilities encompass everything from brushing teeth and getting dressed to feeding themselves and maintaining personal hygiene.

The process of children developing self-care skills is often a natural part of their growth. However, for some children, this journey can be filled with challenges. That’s where occupational therapy comes into play. Occupational therapy is a holistic approach that can significantly aid in helping children master essential self-care skills, fostering not only their independence but also their self-esteem and overall well-being.

In this article, we will explore the crucial role of occupational therapy in assisting children in developing self-care skills. We’ll delve into the reasons why some children face difficulties in this area, the principles that guide occupational therapy interventions, and the many ways in which it can positively impact your child’s life.

Understanding the Importance of Self-Care Skills

Before we explore how occupational therapy can help your child develop self-care skills, it’s essential to recognise the significance of these skills in a child’s life. Self-care skills encompass a wide range of activities, including but not limited to:

Dressing and Undressing: 

The ability to select, put on, and take off clothing is a fundamental self-care skill that fosters independence.


From potty training to proper hygiene practices, these skills are crucial for personal comfort and well-being.


Children should learn to feed themselves and make appropriate food choices as they grow.

Bathing and Personal Hygiene: 

Maintaining cleanliness and good personal hygiene is essential for health and self-esteem.

Oral Care: 

Learning to brush teeth, floss, and maintain oral health is a lifelong skill that begins in childhood.


Simple tasks such as combing hair, cutting nails, and washing one’s face are part of personal grooming.

These skills contribute not only to a child’s immediate well-being but also to their long-term self-confidence and independence. They enable children to engage in daily activities, build social connections, and explore the world with a sense of competence.

Why Some Children Struggle with Self-Care Skills

It’s essential to understand that children develop at their own pace, and variations in skill acquisition are normal. However, some children face challenges in developing self-care skills due to various reasons, such as:

Sensory Processing Issues: 

Children with sensory processing disorders may struggle with tactile sensations, making it difficult to tolerate the feel of certain fabrics, textures, or foods, hindering dressing or eating independently.

Motor Skill Delays: 

Fine and gross motor skill development is a critical component of self-care. Some children may experience delays or difficulties in these areas.

Developmental Disabilities:

Children with developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, may require more targeted support in mastering self-care skills.

Coordination Difficulties: 

Problems with hand-eye coordination or bilateral coordination can impact dressing and feeding abilities.

Cognitive Challenges: 

Children with cognitive impairments might find it challenging to remember and perform the steps involved in self-care tasks.

Behavioural Concerns: 

Behavioural issues or resistance can make teaching self-care skills more challenging.

Occupational Therapy and Self-Care Skills

Occupational therapy is a profession that focuses on helping individuals, of all ages, develop or regain the skills needed to perform meaningful activities or “occupations.” For children, one of these meaningful occupations is learning self-care skills. Occupational therapists are trained to assess and address the specific challenges a child may face in developing these skills.

Here are some key principles and methods occupational therapists use to assist children in acquiring self-care skills:

Individualised Assessment: 

Occupational therapists start by evaluating a child’s current abilities and challenges. They consider physical, cognitive, sensory, and emotional aspects to create a customised plan.

Goal Setting: 

Once an assessment is complete, therapists work with the child and their family to set clear and achievable goals. These goals are specific to the child’s needs and may target areas such as dressing, grooming, or feeding.

Skill-Building Activities: 

Occupational therapists use a variety of age-appropriate activities and exercises to build self-care skills. These activities are designed to be fun and engaging while focusing on skill development.

Sensory Integration: 

For children with sensory processing challenges, occupational therapists use sensory integration techniques to help the child become more comfortable with various textures and sensations. This can make dressing, grooming, and eating more manageable.

Adaptive Tools and Equipment: 

Occupational therapists may recommend adaptive tools or equipment to facilitate self-care. For instance, a child with limited dexterity may benefit from utensils with larger handles or buttonhooks to aid in dressing.

Environmental Modifications: 

Therapists may suggest changes to the child’s environment to make self-care tasks more accessible. This could include creating a visual schedule for routine tasks or organising clothing and personal items for easier access.

Social and Emotional Support: 

Occupational therapy also addresses the emotional aspect of self-care. Therapists help children build self-esteem and self-confidence, fostering a positive attitude towards self-care activities.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Children

Occupational therapy can bring about numerous benefits for children struggling with self-care skills. Here are some of the most significant advantages:


Occupational therapy empowers children to become more independent in daily tasks. This newfound independence enhances their self-esteem and confidence.

Improved Social Interaction: 

As children develop self-care skills, they can engage more effectively in social situations, fostering better connections with peers and family members.

Enhanced Learning: 

The skills acquired through occupational therapy can extend beyond self-care and have a positive impact on a child’s overall learning and development.

Increased Participation in Daily Life: 

Occupational therapy helps children become more active participants in their daily routines, which can lead to improved quality of life.

Reduction in Caregiver Burden: 

For parents and caregivers, occupational therapy can lighten the load by equipping children with the skills to take care of themselves more effectively.

Long-Term Self-Reliance: 

The skills learned in occupational therapy can set the foundation for a lifetime of self-reliance, contributing to a better quality of life in adulthood.

Occupational therapy is a valuable resource for children who are facing challenges in developing self-care skills. By offering individualised assessments, goal-oriented plans, and a range of therapeutic interventions, occupational therapists provide children with the tools they need to become more independent and confident in their daily lives.

As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting your child’s journey toward self-care independence. By partnering with a skilled occupational therapist, you can help your child overcome challenges, build essential skills, and foster a sense of empowerment that will serve them throughout their lives. Whether your child is working on dressing, grooming, feeding, or any other self-care task, occupational therapy can be a powerful tool in their developmental journey. 

Connect with Cloud Nine Therapy to discuss any primary concerns with your child’s behaviour or moods, etc. Cloud Nine Therapy can provide solutions for developmental delays by providing occupational therapy.