How often are you frustrated that your child cannot remember all the things you asked them to do at bedtime or breakfast?
Skills for Following Directions
Multi-step direction practice can positively impact the skills needed to follow directions. Executive functioning development begins at a young age and continues into the 20’s and 30’s. Executive functioning skills, simply put, are the ones that work together to help people process and follow directions to complete simple and complex tasks in daily life. These skills include working memory, attention, planning, and time management. It is very normal for children to have difficulty remembering multi-step directions, especially if their attention is focused elsewhere including another task they are working on.
There are a few activities you can do to make a game of improving a child’s ability to follow short verbal multi-step directions such as getting ready for bed or following the steps to complete an assignment in the classroom.
Some verbal directions are simple (hang up your coat and wash your hands) and some are more complex (for your homework agenda – your test is on the 19th and your book report is due the following Friday). Playing games to practice multi-step directions can be simple and fun. Here are 4 games to use to practice following verbal directions. Additionally, these can be done almost anywhere and as a quick break in the day.
Games for Multi-Step Direction Practice
Tips: Repeat the directions twice, in the same order. Have your child repeat them back to you. Do not give any other comments other than “go.” If there is a stall, ask if they need help or time. Encourage them to repeat the directions and ask what they need to do next. Fade the prompts as they become more independent with activities for following directions.
- Grab a deck of Uno cards and request your child sort them by the color red and even numbers (spread out the cards face up, pick up all the red even numbered cards – go). Can work with almost any deck of cards and a variety of commands.
- Read a list of commands (stand up, name an animal, walk to the wall, count to 5 ) twice and say “go.” Work up to saying the list of commands only once. Can try with bedtime routines (put your pj’s on, toss your dirty clothes in the laundry, brush your teeth, use the bathroom, climb in bed). Home-Speech-Home has a list you can use.
- Grocery shop in your own kitchen by listing out 4 or 5 items at a time to be brought to the table (Please bring me the box of oatmeal, two large forks, one plum, and the salt shaker – go). Repeat in a different order to return the items to their correct spots. Can also be done with pretend kitchen foods in the playroom, laundry delivery to bedrooms, or items needed for a recipe.
- Create an indoor or outdoor obstacle course and take turns giving directions (take 2 swings, roll down the ramp, hop over the pillow, and spin around 3 times). Can also be done as a “Listen and Draw” activity instead of an active one (pick up a green crayon, draw grass in the bottom left corner, use a blue crayon to draw a lake in the middle of the paper, then add waves to the lake and clouds in the sky).
Multi-step direction practice can be fun and quick. Consider adding some of these games to your calendar this week whether you are a parent, tutor, or babysitter. Everyone can get in on the fun with activities for following directions. You may even find yourself less frustrated in the future when it comes to telling your kids what to do at breakfast or bedtime.
You will find many tools and articles available to delve deeper into executive functioning skills and improve the execution of daily tasks with verbal and visual cues. Some resources are listed below.
Is it harder to follow 4 or 5-step directions? Would you rather have directions given orally or visually?
https://www.home-speech-home.com/multi-step-directions.html Try this for 5-10 minutes a day. I have used it with clients for years.
https://blog.slpnow.com/teaching-how-to-follow-2-and-3-step-sequential-directions/ Work on more complex directions
https://www.theottoolbox.com/what-is-executive-function-in-child-development Learn more about the stages of development
https://www.tailorjoy.com/in-order/ Prioritizing to-do lists with kids and adults