Getting a preschooler dressed can be a cause for morning stress for many parents. You might be in a hurry and your child won’t put on their coat without making a tantrum, or they have decided to wear three pairs of socks today or has buttoned their clothes wrongly and feels betrayed by you when correcting the situation. You might think that the only way around this is dressing your child yourself, because if it’s still such a struggle, it might be too early to be working on self-care skills like dressing.
In fact, learning to dress independently is an important skill that your child can start to tackle between 36 and 48 months old. Meeting challenges like pulling clothes off, opening large zippers, putting on shoes or buttoning and unbuttoning large buttons actually helps your child build many new skills. For example, they develop multiple different areas, like fine and gross motor skills when mastering necessary hand movements, or their memory when recalling steps and their order when putting clothes on and off. They also work on their attention span and learn through experience about shapes and colors, not to mention the self-awareness, the sense of achievement, and the confidence that is built by learning to get dressed.
Here are some tips for you to help your kid learn how to get dressed:
- Be supportive and acknowledge progress. If you make getting dressed a positive experience, your child will be more likely to cooperate with you.
- Teach undressing first, as it takes less coordination.
- Try to practice getting dressed when the pair of you are not in a hurry and set a realistic allotted time for dressing.
- Let your child choose clothes from a couple of weather-appropriate options and talk about the weather and how it’s related to the clothes you choose.
- Explain the difference between clean and dirty clothes, and how you put them in different places.