How To Expand On “Put-In” Tasks

Working in an early childhood classroom, I have seen a lot of “put-in” and even “take out” tasks. These tasks are wonderful and work on many skills including hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, and much more! I have seen everything from putting buttons, putting small and large pom-poms into a container, taking memory matching cards out, taking clothespins off and putting them in, etc. Since working with my wonderful BCBA, we are working to make many of these tasks that I brought into my new therapeutic day school classroom and revamping them to making them more functional. We know that put-in tasks are great tasks for independent work stations and allows for maintenance of skills. In this post I will show some of the tasks before and afters, discuss the thoughts that went into them each, and review why we wanted to work on more functional skills even at the early childhood level!

What are “put-in” tasks? 


Put in tasks refer to tasks that are just that; putting an item inside of something! These work on fine motor skills that are essential for our learners. Once a learner is taught the expectations of simpler tasks, they are great for adding to waiting bins, independent work stations, using as easy tasks for confidence builders, they are engaging activities for large groups lessons, and much more! With these kinds of tasks comes clear beginnings and ends which our learners thrive on. Using only simpler tasks, however, occasionally become repetitive and can be limiting and reinforcing to some rigid behaviors. We want to expand on tasks when appropriate and make them more functional. My team and I are to be sure that when we are introducing and using task activities that we are looking towards our learner’s futures and teaching what we want them to be independent in when they are older. We can set our learners up for success early! There is no harm is starting young. When my team and I are looking for materials to use, we are sure that everything is age appropriate. I also enjoy matching these tasks to the unit themes that are happening within our classroom, which also helps with generalization. 

Why do we expand on simple tasks?


The skill of putting in, taking out, putting on, and taking off are all essential skills that our learners need to work on and practice. There are ways to expand on each of the tasks we create in our classroom to make them more functional and to create more natural learning opportunities. When we think and look at all of the strengths of our learners, expansion and functionality of tasks are possible for ALL learners! A few ways that we expand on put in, take off, put on, and take out tasks are by adding elements of sorting, identical matching, non-identical matching, assembling, sequencing, receptive language lessons, and expressive language lessons. If we have a learner who is struggling to engage in some of the simpler tasks that we have put together, we want to work on this before expanding to a higher level skill. One way is to use something really motivating as some materials for these tasks. An example of this would be using favorite cars or trains as part of the tasks.

How to revamp tasks that are already made


Some of the simpler tasks that we have in our classroom are very useful for our learners to teach foundational skills of how to work independently. By revamping these tasks and adding a functional element, we can help and challenge our learners by increasing the length, amount of steps, and the difficulty of tasks but also promoting successful independence. Not only can we turn a put in task into a receptive or following direction task, we can use different manipulatives, new toys, different containers, different areas of the classroom, and change the adult working with them.

Some examples are:

  • Pom Pom put in: following directions in a field of 1; “get yellow and put in”, “put the red ones in the small container”.
  • Small button put in: following directions in a field of 2; “get black and put in”.
  • Large button put in: expressive language; “what is this?”
  • Pom Poms on pool noodles: answering questions; “where does this one go?”
  • Pom Pom and eraser color match in cups: answering questions and following directions; “what color is this?”, “is this a ball or eraser?”, “find all of the orange erasers and put in.”

Have fun and think outside of the box!


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