The Importance of Teaching Your Toddler Dressing Skills
Not only is teaching your toddler how to get dressed on their own a good way to boost their confidence and promote independence, but dressing skills are an important developmental milestone. Getting dressed involves mastering many different skills from fine motor skills, coordination, balance, cognitive awareness, and gross motor skills. Teaching your toddler how to dress can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve prepared a few fun activities to help your toddler learn how to dress. But first, let’s have a look at what dressing skills you can expect at different ages.
Dressing Skills by Age
Teaching your toddler how to get dressed on their own won’t happen overnight. Independent dressing requires a range of gross motor skills that develop over a course of several years. Dressing skills, as well as other developmental milestones, are measured along a continuum, or range of normal development. As your child masters the various gross motor skills that are used during dressing and undressing, they will gradually progress along this continuum, until eventually, they are able to get dressed completely independently.
Although there are clear age ranges during which certain dressing skills develop, it is important to remember that no two children are exactly alike. Let’s have a look at what you can expect at different ages.
At around 12 months, most children will be able to extend their arms and legs through sleeves and pants with assistance. At 18 months, a child is usually able to sit up independently and utilize their hands for various activities. This allows them to reach their feet and take off their socks on their own. They might even be able to take off their own shoes if their shoes are unfastened or simply slip off without needing to undo buttons, zips or laces. They are also able to reach their head to take off a hat. Around 24 months, toddlers can unfasten and take off their shoes with both hands.
Between 24 to 36 months dressing skills continue to develop and improve. At this age kids still need help with some aspects of dressing and undressing. Around 3 to 4 years old, children will typically be able to put on sucks, button and unbutton front opening shirts to put them on and take them off, pull elastic pants up and down. Kids between 4 to 6 years old can independently dress and undress.
Fun Tips to Teach Your Toddler Dressing Skills
Teaching your toddler how to get dressed on their own is a wonderful way to introduce independence and responsibility into your child’s life. However, your efforts might at times be met with resistance and will require a lot of patience and persistence. Here are a few of our favourite tips and techniques to use to make learning fun for your toddler.
1. Dress Up
This is my favourite method to work on dressing skills, especially with very young children. Your toddler will be much more excited to learn how to dress if they can dress up as their favourite Marvel superhero or Disney princess. A basket full of costumes is a fantastic way to encourage toddlers to put on and take off clothing and accessories.
2. Reach for Stickers and Tape
I like to use colourful tape or stickers to help toddlers practise trying to reach different body parts. I sometimes find it helpful to introduce this activity before other more advanced techniques. To try this at home, place stickers on your toddler’s feet, back pockets, shoulders, and other body parts that they will need to reach. Your little one will have tons of fun hunting down all the stickers.
3. Slide on Some Slippers
Teaching your toddler to put on or take off their own shoes can be an overwhelming experience. Choosing the right type of shoe is important. Smart simple. Slippers are a wonderful option for practising putting on and taking off shoes. Slippers are easier to start with, as they are softer and less stiff.
4. Practice Before Bed
Mornings in most households are often chaotic and rushed, yet many parents still choose this time to try and teach their toddler dressing skills. The most essential thing is to consistently allow your child to practice getting dressed. Why not wait until bath or bedtime? Not only will you have more time to practice, but everyone will feel much more relaxed. Let your child participate in taking off their clothing and putting on their pj’s, in preparation for bed.
Conclusion - Teaching Toddlers to Dress Independently
Some of these tips and techniques might work for you or your toddler, while others might not be as successful. The important thing to keep in mind is that finding the right process for your child will most likely require some trial and error. As a general rule, try not to get involved where possible, but jump in and help if your child is getting stuck to avoid discouragement. Teaching dressing skills to your toddler should be done consistently, on a daily basis, and preferably at the same time.