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Getting dressed

This sometimes feels like a struggle for you and your child but you can make it fun. Follow our simple tips and techniques to help your child learn how to dress themselves.

Make getting dressed fun

Make sure getting dressed does not feel like a chore. Keep it fun and allow plenty of time – do not rush your child. Playing dressing up games can help your child to learn the right skills at their own pace.

What to expect at each age milestone

Children generally develop dressing skills in the following order.

2 to 3 years

Most children can remove their hat, gloves and socks and can push down and pull up pants.  They can remove an unbuttoned coat, undo zips and poppers at the front.

3 to 4 years

Most children can put their shoes on but sometimes on the wrong feet. They can pull up their socks and put on a coat and gloves.  Most children can:

  • button and unbutton large and medium-sized front buttons
  • pull up zips
  • fasten front poppers
  • unbuckle belts and shoes.

4 to 5 years

Most children can now get undressed by themselves, join and fasten front zippers, buckle shoes and belts and begin to tie laces. They should be able to recognise the front and back of most clothing items.

How to help your child learn to dress

This includes:

  • giving lots of praise for practicing skills, even if your child is not always successful
  • starting with undressing. It’s and gives you more time than in the morning. Remember your child may be tired
  •  following the same sequence when dressing and placing clothes in an ordered pile, for example, from head to toes
  • taking one step at a time. Give help where needed with other steps. Your child may be able to put their shoes on but may need you to fasten the Velcro straps
  • not watching all the time – children may try more when left alone.

Instead of correcting mistakes, ask your child to look in a mirror and feel if what they have done is correct. Encourage them to identify their mistake. For example, a t-shirt needs pulling down or shoes ‘feel wrong’ because they’re on the opposite feet.

Different approaches to dressing

Your child could start the task and you could help with the later stages that they can not manage. For example, your child pulls their socks over their toes and you pull them up over their heel.

You could reward your child for finishing the task by completing the last step after you started it. For example, pull their socks over their toes and just over their heel. They can then pull them up their leg.

Types of clothing

You can make it easier for your child by giving them loose fitting, lightweight clothing with wide neck holes and sleeves.

Avoid lots of layers and difficult fastenings. Elastic cuffs, or cuffs with a button attached with elastic can stretch open when your child puts them on.

If your child finds buttons or buckles difficult, use elastic waistbands on trousers and clothes that fasten with zips or Velcro.