Backward chaining is a technique for teaching life skills to children by breaking a particular task down into steps, starting with the last task and working your way backwards.
When teaching a new skill we often start at the beginning. This can be challenging for children who are struggling to master a skill. One way of learning a new task while giving your child a sense of achievement is to use the backward chaining technique. Backward chaining has been found to be particularly useful when learning self-care skills. It can also be helpful when teaching younger children and those who have difficulty learning new skills.
So what is backward chaining?
You start by breaking the task down into small steps. You teach your child the last step first, working backward from the goal. You complete all of the steps except the last one and have your child practice the final step.
Your child will enjoy the success that comes from completing a task. Once your child has mastered the last step you complete all of the steps except for the last two.
You teach your child the second from last step and they then complete the last step themselves. Even more success! You continue like this until you are teaching the first step and your child is completing all the other steps.
This is a particularly useful technique to use when teaching a child how to get dressed or undressed. This technique can also be helpful for teaching any task that has a number of steps.
Here is a list of steps for you to use when you want to try the backward chaining technique:
- The first step in backward chaining is to break the task down into steps. It can help to do the task and write down each action in turn. Below are some examples of the steps for a number of common tasks
- Now complete all the steps of the task except for the last one for your child
- Now you need to teach your child the last step. You can help your child by showing them, telling them or doing the action with them
- Practise, practise, and practise this step until your child can do it without your help
- Now complete all the steps except for the last two for your child
- Teach them the second last step and let them complete the last step
- Once they have mastered the second last step, complete all the steps except the last three for your child and teach them the third last step and let them do the last two steps themselves
- Repeat until they can do all of the steps