Following Directions

by Kelley Jilek

father and sonFollowing directions is an important life skill that spans several different areas of your child’s development. What we learn about following directions in our childhood can be the difference between enjoying success or experiencing failure in our ventures as adults. For example, a cook follows directions when trying a new recipe and a carpenter follows directions when constructing a new piece of furniture. Learning to follow directions is clearly an important part of our lives. Help your child learn to follow directions successfully by trying the suggestions below:

  • Get your child’s attention. Walk over to your child, place your hand on his shoulder, and make eye contact before attempting to give a direction.
  • Make sure the task is appropriate for your child. Is this something your child will be able to do? Break it down into steps if necessary. Give one step at a time for younger children.
  • Check for understanding. Make sure directions are clear, concise, and easy to understand. Keep directions short. The actual task can get lost in too many words. To make sure your child understands, ask her to repeat what you are asking. You may need to demonstrate for younger children. For example, show them how to place the blocks on the shelf. Say the words as you model the behavior. “It’s time to clean up. Let’s put the blocks on the shelf.”
  • Keep your child informed ahead of time. Give her time to finish what she is doing. For example, say, “It will be time to clean up for dinner in five minutes.” Remind her again at two minutes. After the two minutes, let her know it is now time to clean up. This gives your child a chance to wrap up her play. It shows her that you have respect for what she is doing and feel it is important.
  • Give me fiveAcknowledge success. Provide plenty of positive feedback and praise for a job well done. When the task is completed (or completed to the best of his ability), tell him you’re proud of him.
  • Never miss unexpected opportunities. When you see your child following through with everyday directions, be sure to let her know you saw it. If she put a puzzle away when she was done with it and you didn’t have to ask, tell her how much you appreciated that. Say, “I like how you put your puzzle away when you were done with it.” It can be as simple as that. She will remember, and you will be reinforcing her positive behavior!
  • Read your child a book about following directions. See some suggestions below, but there are many good titles available. Ask your local librarian for children’s picture books about listening carefully and following directions.

The Worst Day of My Life Ever!
My Mouth is a Volcano
Both by Julie Cook

Clap Your Hands
By Lorinda Bryan Cauley

Don’t Forget the Bacon
By Pat Hutchins

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen
By Howard Binkow

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
By Michael Rosen

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