How to practice following instructions with a sensory board

Are you finding that your child just cannot follow the instructions that you give them?

 Being able to follow instructions is a complex skill. It requires us to have so many other skills, including:

· Concepts of size e.g. big, little

· Concepts of location, under, on top, next to

· Concepts of time e.g. before, after, tomorrow, next, first

· Memory – holding information in our mind

· Knowledge of the task and the language used to describe it.

· Hearing, our ears need to hear and our brain needs to process incoming auditory information. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The sensory board is perfect for developing your child’s ability to follow instructions because the board involves many actions e.g. ringing the bell, spinning the wheel, opening the door. These actions can be combined to create complex instructions.

There are two key tricks with practicing instructions:

1. Start within your child’s capacity with one simple instruction e.g. “Spin the wheel” if they know all those words and how to do that action.

2. Then, increase the difficulty with only ONE small addition. E.g. Spin the wheel quickly. Spin the wheel two times. Spin the wheel at the top.

Once your child is familiar with lots of simple instructions, you can increase to two-step instructions. Both steps must be familiar so that the increase of difficulty is the memory component, or the concepts of time, e.g. “Before you spin the wheel, ring the bell.”

This can be turned into a game really easily by taking turns and/or getting points for following instructions accurately. In fact, you could use the numbers to keep track of the scores!

Following instructions is a perfect activity to do with your 3-5 year olds and sets them up to follow instructions accurately at home and when they start school. But go slowly, and make it fun.


Alex Trichilo

Speech Pathologist and Mum of three Instagram: Facebook: