How to Help Your Young Child Get Dressed Independently
Help your child get dressed independently with these tips.
(This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a commission at no extra cost to you.)
“Never do for a child what he can do for himself.” – Maria Montessori
You may have heard this quote before and laughed to yourself while struggling to wrestle a hoodie on your toddler. Great in theory, but not always in practice – especially when getting your kids dressed.
We’ve all been there. Clothes can cause a real power struggle between us and our children even on a good day. But self-dressing is part of growing up – a responsibility that you can help your kids work towards.
Mastering the skills needed to self-dress builds feelings of independence, confidence, and self-motivation in our children. If this all seems a bit more pipe dream than reality at your house, I have a few tips to help your little ones get well on their way to dressing themselves:
Set them up for success
If you’re super strapped for time most weekday mornings as in: “gotta make the morning meeting, forgot your coffee, shoes on the wrong foot” kind of rushed – a weekday is not the day to start letting your child dress themself.
Instead, pick a day when your schedule is not so busy. Give it a shot on the weekend, say, before a family walk, or a lazy afternoon when time is moving backward.
Easy-to-put-on basics like t-shirts and track pants are an excellent place to start. Toddlers may have issues with finicky buttons or tiny zippers and require additional assistance so it’s best to save these for when your child is ready. Need more opportunities for your child to practice dressing themselves? Let them put on pajamas on their own at bedtime as well.
Self-dressing is a great way to work on both fine and gross motor skills but make sure to be realistic in your expectations. They’ll get there!
“Help me to help myself”
It’s a central tenet of the Montessori method, but it also applies here.
Some children might dig their heels in at having to dress themselves because they aren’t sure how to do it. As adults, we may not realize how challenging this task is for kids but there’s actually a lot involved! Show your child how the seams stay on the inside, and the labels are worn in the back. Demonstrate how it’s done and then let them try it themselves.
For the very young or truly resistant, try the half-dressing technique. Help your child with the hardest part of the outfit and let them do the rest.
For example, for a young preschooler, that might mean getting his head through the neck of his pullover and letting him finish the sleeves and body on his own. For pants, help her poke her feet all the way through the legs and then let her adjust and pull them up on her own.
Talk out loud
Narrate each step, so your child will have words for what you’re doing. Sleeves, hem, waistband, collar, etc. are great words to add to a kid’s daily vocabulary. This way, as they start getting better at dressing themselves, you can help them by talking through the tricky parts, instead of jumping in with hands-on assistance.
Aside from the self-dressing piece, these words can empower kids to describe their clothes and their preferences and dislikes. Maybe they’ll actually tell you why they refuse to wear that adorable sweater you got them.
Limit their choices
Once your child has mastered self-dressing, you might like to let them venture into clothing selection as well.
Maybe you’ve given your child clothing options in the past but choosing a suitable outfit from the closet on their own is the next step.
If your littles like to drag their feet and take their time, keep things simple by only offering a handful of choices. A closet stocked with enough weather-appropriate clothing for just one week gives kids options without overwhelming them. Put the rest of the clothes away for another day. You might find that you really didn’t need so much clothing to begin with (lay off those sales, mama!).
I came up with the BLAST system to help my kids cover all their bases. It’s a catchy little acronym that makes the steps in getting dressed easy to remember:
B is for Bottoms
L is for Layering Pieces
A is for Accessories
S is for Socks and Shoes
T is for Tops
My kids’ job? To pick one item from each category. A fun checklist or a station with pieces from each group can further reinforce the concept with younger ones, so nothing gets forgotten.
Let it go…
In the words of everyone’s favorite winter-themed princess movie.
Letting kids dress themselves will no doubt take patience. It might mean fighting the urge to just do it for them or looking the other way when your sweetheart picks a wildly mismatched getup.
You might have to take a deep breath when they’re being silly (pants on the head, anyone?) and gently get them back on track. Your kids are learning valuable skills, even if it doesn’t look like it. It takes perseverance and impulse control to put on clothes, especially if your child is having trouble.
Getting dressed independently teaches children to plan ahead (Does today call for a raincoat, or a t-shirt?) and gives them the ability to take care of themselves (Cold weather? No problem – I can put on my jacket even if no one’s around to help me). And of course, it’s a tool for self-expression and creativity. All this just from self-dressing!
Have I convinced you to give it a shot? Getting dressed is something that happens every day, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work at it. Your kids might surprise you with what they’re capable of!
Rola Amer is the founder of Choulala Box and the BLAST™ method that simplifies fashion for kids so that they can self-dress to self-express. Rola lives in Montreal, Quebec with her husband and two children, Adam and Nia. Choulala Box and the BLAST™ method were selected as one of the Top Mom-Invented Products by Red Tricycle’s Editors and is the 2019 recipient of the National Parenting Product Award (NAPPA). Follow Rola on Instagram or Facebook or visit her site at www.choulalabox.com
9 Ways to Encourage Self-Sufficiency in Young Kids
15 Life Skills Kids Need Before They Leave Home
The (Super Easy) Trick to Help Kids Get Ready for School Independently