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How To: Enable Children to Dress Themselves

Did you know?

Children are expected to start trying to dress themselves, for example pulling on a sock or putting their arms into their jacket, from about two and a half to three years of age. By around four or five years children can usually more or less dress themselves, perhaps still needing some help with zips or buttons.

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

Teaching children to dress themselves is a great way to instil a feeling of agency over their own life. It not only gives them independence but also allows them to make choices in what they wear. While this may lead to some interesting combinations, it enables children to express themselves.

Ways to enable children to start dressing themselves:

  • Start with taking things off first – removing socks, hats or jumpers is much easier than putting them on, but still helps children learn the mechanics and work on the fine motor skills needed to manoeuvre items of clothing.
  • Facilitate participation – while putting on a child’s trousers or jumper, place the clothing in the right place and then encourage them to push their hands or feet through the right holes.
  • Make getting stuck a game – even as adults, getting trapped in an item of clothing is unpleasant and frustrating. If a child gets their head stuck when putting on a jumper or t-shirt, make it a peek-a-boo game to remove the scariness or frustration and replace it with laughter.
  • Teach fun methods – there are a few easy approaches for children to learn to put on coats. One is the superhero method, which involves putting the hood on their head so their coat is hanging like a cape, then putting arms through the sleeves. The other is the coat flip trick, shown in the video below.
  • Practice the tricky bits – buttons, zippers and laces are the most complicated parts of getting dressed. While children will usually only learn to tie their shoelaces around six or seven years of age, practising all these skills on a toy like this will help your early years develop the dexterity they’ll eventually need.

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