Teaching Kids Backward Chaining: A Simple Guide

Breaking down a task into its parts and teaching them in the opposite order is commonly referred to as “backward chaining” when teaching life skills to children. This technique helps children experience accomplishment and success with each try, allowing them to gradually build up their skills and confidence.

To teach kids backward chaining, the first step is to break down the task into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes the process less overwhelming for the child and easier to comprehend. Then, begin by teaching the child the last step and work backward towards the first one until the entire sequence is mastered.

It’s important to repeat the steps regularly and gradually decrease the level of support provided to the child as they gain mastery. Backward chaining is particularly effective for children with learning difficulties or those who struggle with complex tasks. By breaking down tasks into smaller steps, they can learn new skills with greater ease and feel more accomplished along the way.

When teaching a child a new task, completing all but the final stage of the activity is a helpful strategy. This approach prevents the child from feeling overwhelmed at the beginning and helps them build confidence by requiring less input from the adult.

By completing most of the activity beforehand, the child is left to complete only the final stage. This final step is achievable for the child, who then experiences a sense of accomplishment and success. This approach motivates children to keep trying and builds a sense of independence.

As the child gains mastery, the adult gradually fades back, doing less and less while the two continue to work together. This approach allows the child to take on more responsibility and learn new skills while still having support from the adult. With time, the child will be able to complete the task independently and with confidence.

Teaching Common Tasks to Children Using Backward Chaining

Everyday tasks and life lessons can be taught effectively by breaking them down into manageable steps and teaching them in reverse order. This approach helps children learn new skills progressively without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

To begin the teaching process, choose a task or daily activity, and break it down into smaller steps. Then, start teaching the child the final step first, working backward through the sequence. By doing so, the child will always experience success and feel encouraged to keep pushing forward.

Some examples of everyday tasks and life lessons that can be taught through reverse order and breaking down into steps include cooking, household chores, hygiene routines, and social interactions. By applying this method, children can experience accomplishment at every stage of the learning process, leading to greater self-esteem and self-confidence.

Building a Bed

Making a bed can be a helpful task to teach children in reverse order, using a step-by-step approach. To break down this task, the parent or guardian can initially remove the comforter and pillow, lift the top sheet up, fold it in, and lift the comforter up. Lastly, the child can then place the pillow back into its position.

After the parent completes the first four steps, the child can add the pillow themselves. With ongoing practice, the parent can then complete the first three steps while the child pulls up the comforter and places the pillow in the right place. The next step should be introduced once the child has mastered the previous step, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the child can complete the task independently.

By using this method, children can learn new skills in a structured and manageable way, building their confidence and independence over time. Making a bed is just one example of a task that can be broken down in this manner to make learning simpler for children.

Making Shoe Ties

Learning how to tie shoes is a fundamental life skill that can be broken down into simple steps using a reverse order technique. Here’s an outline of how to teach children to tie their shoes:

  1. Create a knot by making a “X” with the two laces and tuck one lace under the “X” and pull it tight
  2. Tighten the knot by holding onto the laces and pulling them apart.
  3. Create a loop by taking the left-hand lace and bringing it upward, then fold it over to make a loop
  4. Create a loop using the right-hand lace by repeating the same process.
  5. Utilize the two loops to make a knot by taking the loop on the right-hand side and placing it on top of the left-hand loop.
  6. Finally, tighten the knot by pulling the loops with both hands.

With practice and repetition, children can learn how to tie their shoes independently and confidently. Reverse order teaching enables them to learn gradually and feel accomplished at every stage.

When teaching children how to tie their shoes, allowing them to tighten the knot after the parent or guardian has tied it can be a helpful approach. The parent should repeatedly explain the process and demonstrate how to tie shoes patiently.

To avoid the child beginning with an untied shoe and struggling to remember each step in order, the parent or guardian can gradually move back one step at a time. This approach allows the child to practice the technique of shoe-tying and successfully complete each step before moving onto the next.

Over time, the child will become more familiar with the process and will be able to tie their shoes independently. With patience and practice, this method of teaching shoe-tying can help children feel successful and accomplished as they learn a new skill and become more confident and independent.


Zipping up a zipper can be a challenging task for children due to the initial difficulty in getting it started. To make the process easier for them, the task can be broken down into simple steps, such as:

  1. Thread the zipper piece into the bottom piece and ensure that it is properly aligned.
  2. Begin zipping slowly, taking care to make sure that the zipper is running smoothly.
  3. Gently pull up the remainder of the zipper to complete the process.

Breaking down the task into these steps can help children focus on each action, making the process easier to comprehend. Additionally, the technique of starting slow can help to avoid frustrating snags and make zipping up a zipper a smoother and more successful experience for children. With practice, children can zip up zippers with greater ease and independence, building their self-confidence along the way.

An effective method to teaching children how to zip up their clothing is by assigning them the task of pulling the zipper up to the top before putting together both parts. This approach allows children to focus on one step at a time and experience success with each try.

If a child is struggling to grab onto a small metal zipper, utilizing a larger, chunkier zipper pull can be helpful. This alternative allows the child to grip the zipper more easily, and they can proudly zip up their clothing independently.

By providing children with a simple task, such as zipping up their clothing, and using alternative tools such as a chunky zipper pull, they can feel more confident and independent. Over time, they will develop their skills and be able to complete the task without assistance, building their self-esteem.

Adding Buttons

For children with fine motor issues, buttoning a shirt can be a challenging task. Coordinating the different steps, such as aligning the button with the buttonhole and getting them to connect, can be overwhelming for many. However, there are strategies that can help children overcome these obstacles.

One helpful approach is to break down the task into simpler steps. This involves having the child first learn to position the button and buttonhole in the right place before making the connection. Once the child has mastered this step, they can then move on to the next part of the process.

Another helpful strategy is to provide the child with additional support when necessary. This may include providing them with alternative tools or strategies that can help them manage the task. For example, using clothing with larger buttons may make it easier for a child with fine motor issues to button their shirt. Additionally, teaching children to brace against a surface, such as a table or wall, can provide them with greater stability, making the task more manageable.

By breaking down the task and providing extra support where needed, children with fine motor issues can successfully learn to button their shirts independently over time. This approach can provide them with greater independence and boost their confidence as they develop their skills.

Teaching a child how to button their shirt can be a challenging task, and breaking it down into phases may not always be the most effective approach. Instead, one helpful strategy is to begin at the bottom of the shirt and hand the child the last button, then leave the next two buttons after they have completed that successfully, and so on.

By using this technique, children can focus on one small step at a time, experiencing success with each button they complete. The child can concentrate on learning the proper hand movements while gradually building up their skill and confidence.

As with any task, patience and repetition are essential to the learning process. Parents or caregivers can provide gentle guidance and encouragement as the child works through each button and can offer praise for every accomplishment.

By using this approach, children can develop their fine motor skills and become more independent in dressing themselves. The focus is on making the task simpler and enjoyable for the child, leading to greater self-esteem and confidence as they master a new life skill.