Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumping Work for Hand Washing Independence

In the last month or so, Tyler has spent a good chunk of his days in the bathroom washing his hands, brushing teeth and putting lotion on his skin. He does this routine over and over again! I'm glad I know that toddlers are a bit obsessive compulsive by nature or I'd be a bit concerned! The trickiest part for him through his hygiene routine has been pumping hand soap from the container, especially on the thin ridge of our pedestal sink. To help him with his independence in this area, I designed a work so he could practice this skill.

The tray consisted of a cassorole dish, a recycled soap dispenser with a bit of soap (plus a drop of blue food coloring for fun) and a sponge for wiping spills.

It took a bit, but Ty figured out how to push straight down to pump the water out. The bottle slipped of  quite often as he didn't always want to steady it with his other hand.

I provided a sponge for him to clean-up his spills on the tray which he did well with. This is new, as he simply didn't care to sponge spills in the past. I think he's better with this now because I've been having him help me clean-up his every day spills on the floor quite often.

Squeezing the water from the sponge back into the dish on his own. He remembered our sponge transfer work!

Ty decided it was time to wash his hands, though I don't think he got anything out of the bottle this way.

His hands were already soapy from his successful pumps and cleaning up the water, so he went to work washing.

Then came the silly part. He decided to (carefully) dump the water onto the tray and put the dish on his head. I was contemplating stopping the activity at that point, but he quickly became interested in the soap bubbles dripping down onto the tray and himself. I could see his inner scientist at work and decided to let him experiment. 

Finally, he somehow made a large bubble on the tray! He removed the dish and tried to create more bubbles by moving his hands around. After every little bubble he could find was popped, we ended the work!

Ty showed wonderful focus with this work, which shouldn't be too surprising to me as anything with water is typically a hit for him. I realized shortly after this work that when we try again, I will have him stand instead of sit, as your shoulders are typically over the pump with straighter arms. I think he may be even more successful this way. If pumping the soap still becomes tricky for him and we have a similar sink when we move, I will switch to bar soap so he can be totally independent.

Linking-up with Living Montessori Now


  1. Nice fun activity!! Looks like it might be time to present the whisking bubbles work. Thank you for sharing.
    Discovering Montessori

  2. Yes, thank you! That will certainly be next. He will love it!

  3. Genius! My 2YO also has trouble with the pump, but frequently prefers it over the bar. I will be introducing this lesson this week!

  4. Love that you turned it into an activity for him to practice. I have a pump with water in in it our bathroom {usually the boys & I shower together as hub is not home from work and Japanese baths are not designed in a way that I could wash them from the outside of it} and Noah has the handle on the big pump but our soap pump for washing hands is too far away from him when he stands at the sink even if he is on the stool so I usually have to pump a bit of soap onto his hands.

    Any hints for how to teach him to dry his hands on a towel? He hates that part even though the towel is low down he tends to run off before he dries them and when I try to prompt him to dry them he does it on his clothes or runs away again!

  5. What a great idea to create a special pumping work,Jen! I love the way you're observing your son to see what his needs and interests are!

    Lulu, I'd recommend giving lessons on hand washing. I often included a little song to help children know how long to wash their hands (such as singing the ABC song or a song like twice through). I always showed them how to dry their hands thoroughly as part of the activity. When they learn hand drying as part of the activity, they're more likely to complete that part of the process. I hope that helps! Deb @

  6. I am going to share this on Facebook - it is very relevant at our house which also has a toddler in it! Found it through Deb (thanks, Deb!).

  7. Thank you ladies! An extra thank you to Deb and Kristy for sharing this on Facebook!

    Lulu, I was going to pretty much say what Deb did (thank you Deb!). It can be hard for me to get Ty to dry his hands all the way. The fun part is the washing part for sure!

  8. He has a lot more fun than I do washing my hands. Maybe I need to put a bowl on my head too =-)
    I'd welcome you to come link up at my Linky Party -