The key points
- Children need to be able to dress themselves properly. However, it can be difficult.
- It is helpful to break down the process of getting dressed into smaller steps. It can be helpful to teach the last step first.
- Remember that every child is unique and will learn skills at a different rate.
How to dress your child
Your child will feel proud of his or her ability to dress himself. Once your child can dress himself, it’s one less thing you have to do.
Additionally, dressing allows your child to develop other skills such as:
- Fine motor skills while she learns how to zip and fasten buttons.
- Gross motor skills while she stands on one foot to pull on a pair of pants.
- She can remember which pieces of clothing to put on first and develops the patience and attention necessary to complete the task.
- Language as she names the types of clothes, colours, and sizes
- She develops an awareness of space and time as she learns how to dress for specific occasions and weather conditions.
Get started by getting dressed.
Children as young as three years old often start to notice clothing and remove simple items like shoes, socks, or hats. They may even try to put them back on. This early awareness can be reinforced by naming your child’s clothes and the parts they cover.
Your older child or toddler can be included in the process of getting dressed by giving him a small selection of clothes and naming them as he puts them on.
Have some basic clothes on hand when you decide that it is time for your child to learn this skill. These could include:
- loose, elastic-waisted pants
- Clothing with large buttons or velcro
- Jumpers, tee-shirts, and underwear with photos on the front can help your child distinguish the front from back.
- You want clothes that are comfortable and easy for your child to wear.
Dressing up: Breaking down the steps
It can be difficult to get dressed. It is easier to break it down into smaller steps, such as putting on your underwear, then your t-shirt and socks, and finally, your shoes.
Depending on your child’s skill level and age, you can also break down the steps involved in getting dressed. You could, for example, break down the steps of putting on shorts like this:
- The right way to cut your face.
- Keep your waistband in place.
- While holding your pants, push one leg at a while through the leg holes.
- Take your shorts down.
Talking with your child through each step will help her understand what to do. Simple words and phrases, such as ‘Shirt on’, are fine in the beginning. As your child develops their language, you can add more words and phrases, such as ‘Push your elbow through the sleeves’.
You can test if your child can dress himself, usually around three years old. If he doesn’t know the answer, ask him.
How to get dressed: Teaching the steps backward.
It is a good idea to break down the task into smaller steps and then teach your child the last step. After your child can complete the last task, you can teach the second-last and third steps.
You might suggest that your child faces the shorts correctly by holding the waistband in his hands and putting his legs through the holes. Next, show your child how to pull the shorts up to his waist.
Once your child can do this, you can teach her how to pull her shorts up and put her legs through her leg holes. Continue working backward through the steps until your child is confident enough to put on her shorts.
This approach has a huge advantage: often, the most rewarding part of completing a task is when it is completed. Your child will be able to enjoy this reward quicker if he can complete the last step first.
It can be tempting for your child to get involved if she is having difficulty. Give your child the chance to solve it for herself and encourage her as she goes. She’ll feel more confident when she does it all on her own. Only step in when your child truly needs you.
Here are some tips to help your child learn how to dress properly
Your child will be more cooperative if you are positive and supportive. Even if your child is putting his pants on backward, a lot of praise can go a long way in encouraging cooperation. These are some tips that will help.
- Give yourself enough time to get dressed.
- You may find yourself feeling rushed when you wake up in the morning.
- If you are in a rush, allow your child to do the simple tasks while you help with the more difficult ones.
- Practice getting dressed when you, your child, and the world aren’t in a hurry.
Choosing the right clothes
- Your younger child can choose from several options, such as two t-shirts. Children older or more mature might be able to choose their clothes.
- Discuss the weather with your child when you are shopping for clothes. Ask your child if it’s sunny or rainy, hot or cold.
- Your child should be taught the difference between clean and dirty clothes. They can be worn again once they are back in the drawer. Some guidelines can be used, such as wearing clean socks and underwear every day.
Making it simpler
- Dressing tasks can be done by requiring your child to sit down. Some children find it easier to sit on the ground than on a bed or chair.
- Your child will be able to reach your clothes easily by storing them in cupboards or drawers. Label your clothing drawers using a picture or a word to describe the clothes in them.
- Wear clothes with clear clues on the front or back – such as a photograph on the front and a tag at the back.
- It’s much easier to teach undressing than dressing. Your child will feel more confident if he can undress himself.
Most five-year-olds still struggle with the skill of tying shoelaces. This illustrated guide will show you how to teach your child how to tie shoelaces.
Children with disabilities or developmental delays can learn how to dress themselves.
Children with disabilities or developmental delays may have difficulty dressing. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects the sensory senses of some children, can make it difficult for them to adjust to different textures on their skin.
An occupational therapist, who specializes in children’s issues, might be able to help you if your child has difficulty dressing. An occupational therapist can help you find strategies for teaching your child how to dress or recommend equipment to make it easier.
Skills development for dressing properly
Below is a guideline for dressing at different ages. Remember that each child is unique and will learn skills at a different rate.
At one-year children usually can:
- Put your arms up and spread your feet for shoes.
- Push their arms and legs through the sleeves and the pants.
- Take off your shoes and socks.
At two years, children usually can:
- Unfasten your coat
- If the laces are not tied, take your shoes off
- Help push down your pants
- Find armholes in tee shirts.
At 2 1/2 Years, children usually can:
- Pull down pants with elastic waist
- Put on socks
- Put on front-buttoned shirts without putting on buttons
- Large buttons with no buttons
At three years, children can usually:
- You can put on t-shirts without much help
- Do not fasten shoes – they may put the wrong foot on your feet
- Put on socks. They might have difficulty getting their heels in place.
- Pull down your pants by yourself
- Zip and unzip zippers without joining or separating
- T-shirts can be taken off without assistance
- Button large front buttons
At four years, children usually can:
- Take off your t-shirts yourself
- Belts or buckle shoes
- Zip your jacket zips together, and close them.
- Put on socks in the right way
- Put on your shoes with very little assistance
- Know the difference between front and back.
At 4 1/2 Years, children usually can:
- Pull your pants up and put on your pants
- Through buckles, thread belts
At five, children usually can:
- You can dress without your supervision or help
- Put on the right t-shirts and jumpers every time.