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Sunday 18 October 2020

DEVELOPING LIFESKILLS: ‘Mom and Dad, I want to dress myself’

Dressing themselves is a life skill that our children need to develop at a young age. We can support them to achieve this important milestone by creating an environment where they can experience success. Here are a few tips on how you can help them on the road of independent dressing:

·       Firstly, make peace that your toddler and young preschooler (and later your teenager) will not necessarily have the same fashion sense as you. Consider it their creative expression of who they are.


·       A full length mirror is a great asset in any young child’s room and is beneficial for their physical, cognitive and emotional development. It helps them to develop their sense of self and generally they also enjoy their reflection ‘imitating’ them. It is good practice for visual tracking as their eyes follow their own movements in the mirror. And it also helps to develop their spatial awareness of their own body and their body in space.


·       Have a low shelf, drawer or basket with a few matching clothing items in there for them to choose from. Keep in mind that they will mix and match how they see fit and may even wear all of the outfits at once and that is perfectly okay. Anyone who has ever spend time with a young child will completely get it and won’t think any less of you as a parent.


·       Make sure that their clothing is easy to put on and take off. This is especially important during toilet training.


·       When you dress your child, or attempt to help them, let them face away from you. This will make the transition from being dressed to being able to dress themselves easier. Trying to convert the getting dressed process from how it works when they face you to when they have to do it themselves can be very challenging.


·       Teach them the order you want them to get dressed in, for instance first put on your underwear, then your t-shirt, pants, socks and lastly your shoes.


·         Show them their clothing tags and teach them that it has to touch their backs.


·       You can cut a large sticker into two pieces and stick one half in each of their shoes so when they put their shoes on (left and right) next to each other, the picture is completed correctly. It is a great visual aid to help them know which shoe fits on which foot.


·       Simple directions in the form of a rhyme, song or chant will help them remember. Use the same one every time you dress them and once they are ready to do it on their own they will be able to recall the ‘instructions’. Repetition is key.


Here is an example for when they put on their pants or skirt

I sit on my bottom,
Flat on the floor.
I put my one foot in,
I put my other foot in,
And wiggle all the way,
Until I see my toes.
And then I stand up straight.
I pull it over my bum.
I turn around and say (with thumbs up): ‘That is done!’

            Here is an example for when they put on a t-shirt

I put my head through the big hole,

My one arm through a smaller hole

My other arm through another hole.

Now look at me!


Developing the life skill to dress themselves does take time and sometimes we want to rush our children by helping them. But the immense pride they will experience, knowing that their grownup trusted them to do it all on their own, is priceless. By consistently showing trust in their ability, you will see their competence increase over time, they will become more and more independent and handle future challenges with confidence. It is worth the mismatched outfits and every questionable fashion sense memory that you will collect along the way.


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