In November 2023 our OT, Megan, wrote the blog ‘Using Books Therapeutically’ , explaining how books are a wonderful medium for gaining knowledge and exploring ideas in the safety of our reading spaces. Parents and carers often ask us about the use of selected apps, online videos, and interactive songs to support learning new skills and which tools we recommend.
As Megan talked about in her blog, you may observe our occupational therapists pull out a book to explore with your child (I love the Lift flap books to discover what’s hidden). You may also see the therapist select a particular app, interactive game, YouTube clip or play a song to help consolidate and bring the learning task to life. This can offer the child a novel, fun and low demand experience, watching characters practicing a new task in a fun and playful medium.
Children, and yes us adults, all learn in multi-model mediums. Some of us may describe ourselves as primarily visual learners, or auditory, tactile and/or kinaesthetic (learning that is gained through our different senses including body movement and position). Generally, we learn through a combination of our senses, watching, listening, touching and moving in a multi-sensory environment. Children use these experiences and opportunities to learn new skills, and integrate their knowledge of tasks.
As an adult you may have experienced training or learning a new skill using a multi-model approach. This could include watching someone else complete a task, listening to a lecture, following a set of sequential steps on video and even making up songs or rhymes to remember key steps.
Providing environments in which your child can learn through different learning experiences in a carefully graded ‘just right’ method can help develop skills and build confidence. This could include reading books, playing games and observing others in real life or through videos and apps.
It is important to note that the therapists will always view and check that a selected app, video, or tool is appropriate for the child with their carer/parent prior to using the tool therapeutically with the child. In the same way, it is important to check that the teaching tool is suitable for your child by viewing the app/video first. For example, therapists often use ‘Toms Toilet Triumph’ Toilet video to help with learning about feeling the urge to go to the toilet but with the sound muted. Some children may be alerted to the sound of the little green frog jumping onto the screen or may be fearful of frogs.
So, always check out videos or apps before you share them with your child. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it helpful?
- Is it fun and engaging?
- Is it age appropriate (too childish or mature for your child)?
- Does it have any characters that the child may be fearful of, use language you would not use in your home or be confusing to your child?
The key is sharing and being an active learner with your child by exploring apps, watching videos and singing skill building songs together. It fosters quality time with your child whilst providing an opportunity for you to help shape your child’s key learning goals through gentle correction of errors and praising positive learning.
For example, listening to the Wiggles Toilet song may help a child prepare to practice their toileting sit or watching a Paw Patrol video with characters learning to use the potty and washing hands.
On a last note, be aware that presenting videos and games can have more efficacy in short bursts, avoid over watching, repetition and disengagement with overuse. There are lots of websites, animations to review and our therapists can help you identify ones that you may like to try out with your child. Consider using technology at a time that your child is receptive and that you have the time to explore with them. Avoid technology a couple of hours before bedtime and limiting the time spent on technology is important for your child’s developmental age.