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How-To-Teach-You-Child-To-Get-Dressed

How To Teach Your Child To Get Dressed

It’s often tempting to do everything yourself when getting your little ones dressed. Particularly if you’re trying to get out the door, and they’re still struggling with socks.

But gradually teaching self-reliance encourages the sort of confidence that can only be built through independence.

It is also vital, for children to learn some important skills:

  • Gross Motor Skills (Coordinating different limbs): Balancing to take off shoes and trousers, lifting arms in a specific order to put a shirt on etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills (Dexterity: Manipulating small parts of the body): Zipping and unzipping jackets, closing buttons, tying laces.
  • Cognitive Skills: Understanding what order to dress in; how seasons/temperature can affect what should be worn; and the attention to finish the task.

So when are the milestones of learning to dress most commonly reached?

The process often starts with undressing (sometimes when you least want it!) around 18 months; and your little one might appear to be able to get out of nearly any type of clothing.

Around 12 months:
  • Holding out arms for sleeves, and lifting feet for shoes
  • Pushing arms through sleeves, and legs through trousers
  • Pulling socks and shoes off.
Around 24 months:
  • Undressing with little help
  • Finding armholes in t-shirts
  • Unbuttoning large buttons
  • Pulling trousers up and down
  • Trying to put on socks.
At age 3:
  • Putting on t-shirts with little help
  • Putting on shoes without fastening (possibly on the wrong foot)
  • Zipping and unzipping without joining or separating zippers
  • Buttoning large front buttons.
At age 4:
  • Buckling shoes and belts
  • Connecting a jacket zipper and zip it up
  • Putting on socks properly
  • Recognising the front and back of clothing.
At age 5:
  • Dressing with little help or supervision
  • Putting on clothing the right way each time
  • Beginning to learn shoe tying.

How Can I Encourage My Child?

Allow enough time for getting dressed: No one is going to learn anything in a hurry. If you have longer (e.g. at the weekends) take time to explain things fully and allow extra independence, even if you sometimes intervene mid-week.

Offer some choice: Some children dislike getting dressed. But it will be much more tempting if they have some say in what they’re putting on. As long as it’s weather appropriate, it doesn’t really matter if it is sometimes a little ‘experimental!’ You can always limit the choices if necessary.

Play dress up: Hats, capes, and elastic waisted skirts, are a good warm up for more complicated items; and loose clothing is easier to get into than fitted clothes.

Make sure clothes are organised clearly: Label clothing drawers with a picture and word, so items are easy to find. It also helps to develop an association between the word, and the item.

Getting back to basics

Use clothes with clear front/back: e.g. logo on the front, and tags on the back, so it’s clearer to see which way around clothes go.

Lay clothes out in order: Underwear on top, jumper on the bottom of the pile.

Start with elasticated waistbands, and slip on shoes: They can get the encouragement of mastering the basics, even if other steps take a while.

Build it up: Encourage them to work out how they’re taking clothes off, to learn to put them on. For complicated items, divide it into steps: Find foot holes, step feet in, stand up, pull up, fasten.

Encourage them to sit down to put on trousers, shoes, and socks

When they’re learning a new step, let them try; even if you have to make a few adjustments at the end.

When putting on jackets, start with the hood, which makes sure it is the right way around

Did you pick up any hacks for teaching your children to dress? Do you have a tiny nudist running around, or a dress up fan? We'd love to hear!


About the Author

Emily is a writer, editor, blogger, and our Digital Content Assistant. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake. She still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last nine years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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