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Helping Kids Learn to Dress Themselves

The Fine Art of Self Dressing

Of all the life skills kids are asked to master early on, self dressing ranks up there in complexity. Self dressing takes time and practice. It requires coordination, sequencing skills, and the ability to handle frustration. Luckily, most kids can’t wait to dress themselves. Here’s how you can help the learning process along.

Set Aside ‘Getting Dressed’ Time

Obviously, a busy weekday morning isn’t the time to practice self dressing. Plan to work on it when you’re not in a rush, and be ready to step back and let your child wrestle a bit. It’s our nature as parents to help our kids when they’re struggling. Resist the urge so your child can learn.

Choose Easy-on Kids Clothing

Fasteners like zippers, buttons, and snaps are tricky for little fingers. For early self dressing sessions, you might focus more on easy-on clothes: pullover tops, elastic waist pants,  jackets with magnetic closures. Take advantage of kid-friendly Velcro and hook and loop fasteners (see our Easy on Athletic Shoes and clever Myself Belt).

 Seek Activities that Build Fastening Skills

Activities like latches boards and lacing cards help kids develop fine motor coordination  and ultimately self dressing. Dress up dolls are very effective skill-builders. They not only build fastening skills (and it’s easier to work on fasteners that are in front of you), but interest in the head-to-toe dressing process.

 Use Tools and Clues that Help Kids Succeed

By choosing clothes and kids hats with distinct fronts and backs, you’ll increase your child’s chance of putting them on right. Similarly, placing shoe labels inside your child’s footwear will help her distinguish left and right. Got to have lace up sneakers? Replace conventional shoelaces with Lock Laces, which never come untied.

Start by Working on Undressing Skills

Getting undressed is easier than getting dressed. For example, unzipping a zipper is easier than closing it back up. Even babies can, and do, pull of their hats and socks. Instead of finding it an annoyance, think of it as a teachable moment.

Break It Down Into Steps

Show your child what to do, step-by-step. In the beginning, you may want to take the lead, then invite your child to complete the last step. Once he masters that, ask him to complete the step before it as well. This approach, which experts call “backward chaining,” eases kids into self dressing.

Choose an Accessible Kids Closet Organizer

Part of learning to dress independently means selecting your own outfits. Our kids closet organizer includes a height-adjustable closet rod, so you can mount it, along with hanging shelves, within your child’s reach. And while you’re teaching your child to take her clothing out, teach her the very important skill of putting things away!

Teach Kids to Make Smart Dressing Choices

Very early on, kids start asserting their own unique fashion sense, like preferring shorts in January or wearing rain boots to bed. Power struggles are normal. One way to minimize them is to let kids choose between pre-approved outfits and teach kids about the weather early on. Another tip: a days of the week closet organizer lets you choose the week’s outfits together in advance, so you can avoid last-minute wardrobe wars.

Finally, Motivate and Praise

Learning to dress yourself is a big accomplishment. But so is making the effort. Many kids are motivated by chore charts and checklists, as well as your praise.

But perhaps the greatest reward of all is when your child can proudly say, “I dressed myself!”

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