Self-Help SkillsInfants and toddlers are developing what we call adaptive skills or self-help skills. This developmental domain encompasses a great variety of skill subsets.

Within this area, children learn to self-feed first with fingers and then a utensil, learn to dress and undress, as well as toilet training, brushing teeth, and helping with overall hygiene.

In many cases, children develop these skills with little or no intervention. They raise their arms to help you dress them, extend toes for socks, and pull pants up and down. As children grow, they will begin to show increased independence as well as great pride in what they can do “all by myself.”

However, some children struggle with oral motor, sensory, fine motor, and cognitive issues that make self-help tasks more difficult. These children need extra help to get where their more typically developing peers are performing.

That’s why this week, I’ve researched and chosen a few helpful tools and toys for children experiences self-help challenges.

Melissa and Doug Basic Skills Board

For: Toddlers and preschoolers
Price: $20

This cleverly-constructed toy lets little hands dress and undress an adorable brown bear. Children use this board to practice operating snaps, zippers, buttons, buckles, and laces. The board doubles as a puzzle, with each removable piece fitting onto a different part of the bear’s body.

Beaba 360 Spoon

For: Beginning Self-Feeders
Price: $9

When the baby first starts self-feeding, the process can be messy and frustrating, as most of the food falls off the spoon before making it into baby’s mouth! Beaba 360 spoon solves this problem brilliantly, with a rotating handle that keeps the spoon pouch horizontal no matter how baby holds it.

NumNum Pre-Spoon Gootensil

For: Beginning Self-Feeders
Price: $10

Another brilliant self-feeding innovation, Gootensils allow the baby to dip the soft-textured rubbery utensil into a thin or thick puree to self-feed with a satisfying sensory experience.

Playtex Sipsters Stage 1 Straw Sippy Cups

For: Ages 4 months+
Price: $5

Many pediatricians recommend teaching your infant to drink from a straw, since bottle-drinking may be linked to the buildup of fluid in the ears and contribute to frequent ear infections. This is a great cup that can be used as early as four months of age! The Playtex sippy cup comes in a variety of kid-friendly colors. It is chunky with two sturdy holding handles so your child can hold it upright independently. The sippy cup helps your child learn to drink from a straw, as you can squeeze the bottom slightly to make the juice or water come up the straw until s/he begins sucking independently.

Potty Scotty Musical Potty Chair

For: Ages 1-3
Price: $20

An economical choice from the musical potty market, this potty will play music when your child urinates in it; a great way to reinforce this much-desired behavior. Also, I like the pottie’s sit-on construction, almost like a rocking horse, rather than the classic “throne” type of potty. The squatting position makes it easier and more natural for your child to “go” on it, making for a smoother potty-training experience.


By Chaya Glatt