Helping Your Children Follow Directions

“Timmy, go and put your shoes in the cupboard, wash your hands, then go tell your sister to come for lunch!!

For some kids this is an easy directive, but for others, they might put their shoes in the cupboard and then scratch their head wondering what to do next.

We all know that when we don’t have to repeat ourselves multiple times, it’s a win for everyone!

Here’s a few ways to adjust how you give directions so that your child(ren) can be successful!

Get your child’s attention

If a child is playing or occupied with something, they need a cue that they should stop what they are doing and listen. Saying their name is a great way to do this. Catching their eye and holding their gaze ensures that each of you is focused on the other and it will make it a more meaningful exchange. Make sure they acknowledge that they are listening before giving the instruction.

Keep the directions simple

Directions that are too long can be difficult for your child to process. Be clear and simple. For a younger child, give only one or two step directions. If there is more than one step, consider using numbers or first, then to cue your child to do more than one thing. For example, “Timmy, I have two things for you to do. First put your shoes in the cupboard, then (or second) go and wash your hands for lunch. If the child is older, and can already do two steps, you can add more to the list, but using numbers will help them to remember all the steps.

Use clear language

Make sure that you are specific in what you are asking your child to do. For example, if you say, “clean your room” your child may not know where to begin with this direction. Consider picking 1-2 things that you want completed, for example, “pick up your clothes and make your bed”. If you are too vague, your child may not know where or how to begin.

Use visuals to support the directions

Sometimes words aren’t enough. Using visuals like counting the steps on your fingers or pointing to what you want your child to do can help your child remember what they have to do.

Check that the message was understood

Encourage your child to repeat the directions back to you so that you know they got the message. They can tell it back to you in their own words. Encourage them to ask questions if they need clarification. This will help them when they are at school. Having confidence to ask the teacher for support or to repeat directions is a lifelong lesson for your child. If you start at home to build confidence in your child, they will be equipped for life long learning.

If you have any concerns about your child really struggling to follow directions, contact us to speak with a speech-language professional today. Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to assess and recognise delays in understanding directions, and can offer advice and effective therapy programs to help support your child’s language development.