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 his coat without making a tantrum, or he has decided to wear tree pairs of socks today or has buttoned his 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.

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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, he develops multiple different areas, like fine and gross motor skills when mastering necessary hand movements, or his memory when recalling steps and their order when putting clothes on and off. He also works on his attention span and learns 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 its related to the clothes you choose.
  • Explain the difference between clean and dirty clothes, and how you put them in different places.