It’s been a crazy time the last few weeks, and many people have/are finding it tough for various reasons. Amongst other things, for me the idea of keeping my toddler occupied indoors for such a prolonged period was daunting, especially without any childcare for the foreseeable future. So, I tapped into strategies that I used as an ABA therapist. How did I organise the sessions for children who had fleeting motivation?
In the ABA school, timetables were done for us, but when I left to work independently I needed a structure to work from – and the learners often respond better to a structure in the sessions also! I’d start by identifying motivating activities. I may base this on what I already know of the child, or by trial and error (trying new things to see if they liked it). I‘d make a list of the preferred items/activities and make a timetable. Each slot on the timetable would be a 15-30 minute slot (this could change dependent on your child or the activity you are doing). Here’s an example of what my day might look like during lockdown with my 2 year old;
|8-8.30||Breakfast||3.30-4||Hide and seek|
|8.30 – 9||Morning kids tv||4-4.30||Crazy soap + books|
|10-10.30||Walk||5.30-6||Post dinner tv|
|11-11.30||Ball games||6.30-7||Cuddle and story|
|12.30-1||Lunch kids tv|
|1.30-2||Video call nanny|
|2.30-3||Stickers + snack|
Having a timetable serves as a great prompt for me – it’s awesome to know what’s coming next. If I was winging my day it’s likely that during the time I didn’t have a plan in place that my toddler would be getting up to something that I didn’t want him to! It also makes the day loads more manageable having it broken down like this – it seems less overwhelming. It keeps me moving on to new activities and not overdoing it; we call it satiation when we do something so long that the child loses motivation. Some of the activities above I would be a part of with my little man, but some I would let him crack on so I can sneak in a cup of tea. This is also a consideration for parents who are working full time and looking after their children – fill the timetable with things your child is more independent with. Be realistic with what you can do, if you expect to achieve too much with your job or child you may not end up doing either very well!
Now, it’s fair to say that some activities flop, and if they do, I’ll swap it for something later on in the timetable and revisit it later (just because they don’t like it now doesn’t mean they won’t like it later). The same goes for if he specifically asks for something during the day, I’ll generally follow his motivation (unless I’ve set up an activity, in which case I’d say we can do whatever he asked for next). I use clear language to say what we’re doing now and next and let him know when an activity is coming to an end. It may work better for you to offer your child a choice of activities for each slot in the timetable – it can be there as a guide, not a fixed structure. I usually prompt my son to help me tidy up as well (and reinforce tidying up when he does!). Having a timetable like this also helps practise transitions (moving from one activity to another). Someone said to me ‘doing a timetable sounds like work’ – but I challenge you to try if for a day and see what you think, it won’t take long to do. There are many advantages to planning your day and this can be useful all year round – lockdown or not!
So, try prepping your day like a pro and let me know how it goes!