Task initiation is a powerful skill. The ability to tell oneself that a project or job needs to be started is a big part of getting anything done. A bigger part of that is actually starting. How many of us have to-do lists that are a mile long? Knowing a job needs done is part of it, but actually starting on that unappealing job is quite another!
For kids, task initiation can be overwhelming. And, initiation is a skill that can become more difficult as children age. Task initiation is a subset of executive functioning that enables us to perform and succeed. Below is more information on task initiation related to children and playful ways to build this skill. (We’ve talked about task initiation here on the site before…Here are more ways to help kids with task initiation.)
What is Task Initiation?
Task initiation is an executive functioning skill. It is influenced by other executive functions such as impulse control, perseverance, and cognitive flexibility. Sustained attention and problem solving deeply impact task initiation.
Task initiation is needed for so many areas of functioning. From starting homework to cleaning a bedroom, task initiation is needed to start big jobs. Task initiation is essential for making friends and trying new things. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to see the big picture and break down big jobs into smaller pieces. Task initiation is part of that process, to first portion out pieces of a process and then start on those smaller action items.
Task initiation requires a few key abilities:
- Refrain from distractions
- Sustained attention
- Impulsive control
- Cognitive flexibility
- Problem solving
How to Teach Task Initiation
Try some of these playful techniques for teaching task initiation. The best part of these activities is that children and students will not realize they are “working” on developing a skill. Many times, kids with executive functioning struggles know they have difficulties that impact their function. It is important to discuss these needs and subsequent goal areas with kids, but constantly working on skills can have a negative and overwhelming impact on self-esteem. Making interventions fun and creative can help!
Planning and prioritization are executive functioning skills that are closely related to task initiation.
Activities to Teach Task Initiation
- Play follow the leader games.
- Play a game of Simon Says.
- Idea Storm- Brainstorm ideas for a day’s activity or a family project. Make goals together and break out the parts of the activity. Then, start together.
- Create a Command Center for homework and family activities.
- Play Red Light, Green Light.
- Look for shapes in the clouds. Make up stories about the clouds then write them down. Pull out the story the next day and write more to the story.
- Set up an invitation to create art station.
- Create an invitation to write journaling center, complete with fun pens and paper, stationery, stickers, and highlighters. Try using the Impulse Control Journal.
- Nature hunt creation- go on a walk through a park or the backyard. Collect interesting pieces of nature and use what you found to create a collage. Write a story based on the pieces you found. Make it a group activity for the whole family or classroom, with each person adding their piece.
- Grocery store ideas- Pick a new fruit or vegetable and use it in a recipe. Look up new recipes and find one that looks interesting. Make it and eat together.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.