3 easy steps to teach your toddler to dress herself independently

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — September 19, 2017
  • Teach her to dress herself independently
    1 / 4 Teach her to dress herself independently

    Between the age of two and three years, your child tries to get involved with dressing.

    Maybe she makes an attempt to pull off her pyjamas in the morning or puts on her shoes when she’s going out.

    Of course she won’t be able to dress herself independently until she’s at least four or five years old, and even then small buttons will still be too difficult for her.

    With your guidance and support, however, your two-year-old can learn the basics of dressing.

    Related: 4 ways to teach your child to be more independent

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  • The Learning Process
    2 / 4 The Learning Process

    Here are the typical dressing skills that you can expect of your growing child:

    Two years old
    Her increased arm and leg control coupled with her improved hand-eye co-ordination enables her to put on her shoes when she’s going to the playground – although they may be on the wrong feet.

    Three years old
    By the end of her third year, she enjoys playing her part in dressing and undressing.
    She can pull off most of her clothes without your help, although some of the items (for instance, her vest) may be a struggle for her.
    With her newly acquired toilet control, she also takes pleasure in pulling her panties down and pulling them back up independently.

    Four to five
    Bear in mind that there are some dressing skills that she won’t master until she is several years older, so don’t even try to teach her tasks like tying her shoelaces, pulling a zip up, buttoning, or folding her clothes neatly.
    You may demotivate her if you try to teach her those abilities before she is ready for them.

    Related: Mum quits job to teach special needs daughter to be independent


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  • Room To Grow
    3 / 4 Room To Grow

    The most important strategy when trying to teach your two-year-old how to dress herself is to harness her enthusiasm for it.

    Resist the urge to do the task for her
    If she wants to dress herself, let her do it. Your stomach can quickly knot with frustration as you watch your young child struggle hopelessly to remove an item of clothing. But remain calm, otherwise she will become agitated too.

    Teach her one dressing skill at a time
    There’s no point in encouraging her to learn how to put her socks on, how to remove her vest, and how to put her feet into her slippers, all at the same time.
    To you, these are easy, but to your child these may be huge challenges. Instead, focus on one thing only, such as putting her socks on, and try to teach her that skill over the course of a few days.

    Break the skill down into small stages
    Suppose you want to teach her how to pull her sock on her right foot. Start off by showing her how to position herself, perhaps by sitting on the bed or on the floor.
    Then explain that she should hold the sock open with both hands. She needs you to point out the various stages to the completion of the task. This makes success easier for her to achieve.

    Related: 10 ways to help your child be more independent

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  • Give Her Time
    4 / 4 Give Her Time

    Learning to dress herself takes time – there is no quick way.

    If you want to teach your child how to do this, make sure you pick the right moment. You’ll both end up in tears if you decide to show her how to pull on her vest and pants just before you leave for work in the morning!

    Select a time at the weekend to practise her dressing and undressing, or a point during the week when you have time.

    Related: Why you should not insist on dressing your kids alike

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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