Your baby is turning into a toddler, and with that comes an onslaught of desire to be independent. They are observing what’s going on around them, and are doing their best to imitate what they see, from getting a snack to knocking on doors to putting their clothes on. But what can be done to help them learn how to effectively dress themselves? Take a look at our top tips on how to teach your child how to get dressed.
1. Start Small
Handing them a button-up shirt on day one would certainly prove to be a challenge. Start with articles of clothing that are easy to get on and off, such as t-shirts, dresses, pull-over sweatshirts, pants with elastic bands, and slip-on shoes. Once they’ve mastered the basics, then you can help them move up to something a bit more challenging.
2. Introduce During Playtime
If you have a little one obsessed with princesses, superheroes, or Halloween costumes, use this to your advantage to make getting dressed fun! Set out all of the pieces for their ensemble and make it into a game. Show them a picture of the individual they’re dressing up as to help them understand how they’re supposed to put it on-this can come in handy to help them differentiate the front and back of their outfit.
This is something that you will want to do with dress-up clothing that is easy to get on and off. Start with the dinosaur costume that just slips over their head or the unicorn dress up clothes made of stretchy, comfortable fabric. This will keep the teaching moment light-hearted and reduce the possibility of a meltdown when they find that their outfit is difficult to put on.
3. Be an Example
As your toddler finds themselves in the imitation phase, use this to your advantage to create a teaching moment. Using the same articles of clothing you’re trying to teach them to put on (t-shirts, elastic pants, etc.), let them watch you get dressed. Try putting on an article of clothing, such as a shirt, and then prompt them to put their shirt on. Do this until you are both fully dressed.
4. Lay Out Clothing the Night Before
Together with your child, choose tomorrow’s outfit tonight. Not only will this get them excited about getting dressed in the morning, but it will give them a sense of control. Involving them in this part of the process is sure to help them feel pretty grown up, and will lend a touch of confidence as they take on the task the next morning.
Fair warning-this is likely to lead to your child combining striped leggings with a floral blouse and swimming goggles. Take a deep breath and consider what you will allow and what you put your foot down on (like wearing a swimsuit in January).
5. Easy Access
On the note of choosing outfits together, be sure to store your child’s clothing where they can easily access it. This is just one more step you can take in helping them feel confident and capable when it comes to this new task. Store their clothes in the bottom drawers of the dresser, or hang them on the bottom rack of the closet.
6. Use a Mirror
Especially for those visual learners, encouraging the use of a mirror can be extremely useful in helping your child learn how to get those pesky shorts on. Stand behind them and demonstrate how the article of clothing goes on so that they can watch you do it, and then have them give it a try.
7. Sit Down
When it comes to articles of clothing like underwear, shorts, and pants, it can be easy for your little one to become frustrated. They could mix up the holes, put things on backward, or lose their balance as they attempt to get the piece on. Try having them sit down when it comes time to put these items on. Not only will it help them keep their balance, but it will help them to see what they’re doing more clearly, and leaves less space for error.
8. Use Simple Terms
Do your very best to be intentional in your word choice when guiding your child through putting on an article of clothing. Instead of saying “put your arm there” say “put your arm through the hole on this side” (put their shoulder on the side they’re trying to get their arm through). Or instead of the word hole, you could say “circle”. Use terms that you know will make sense to your child.
9. Take it Step by Step
In the beginning, it probably won’t work to hand your child a t-shirt and expect them to be good to go. Think through the process of putting the shirt on, and consider how you can break it down for them. Start by pulling the shirt over their head and helping their arms through, and then have them pull it over their belly. Once they’ve mastered that, have them push their arms through and pull their shirt down, and so on and so forth.
10. Be Mindful of Time
If you are running late for your older child’s carpool and rushing everyone out the door, it’s probably not the best time to have your little one dress themselves. Make sure you create plenty of time for your child to dress themselves in this learning stage, and that the time you set aside is as stress-free as possible so that they aren’t feeling rushed or frustrated.
11. Observe for When They’re Ready to Graduate
Once they’ve mastered the simple stuff, such as t-shirts, shorts, dresses, skirts, etc, it may be time to consider showing them how to handle some other advanced methods. Teach them how to manage buttons and zippers, and then move on to velcro and shoelaces. There’s no need to do everything at once, but when they’re ready, get them started on the next challenge!
12. Be their Biggest Cheerleader
Celebrate every achievement, large and small! As a parent, you know by now that your love and approval means the world to your little person, so really work the applause and verbal affirmations. This will be extremely helpful in keeping them to stay confident and motivated to keep trying. When they make a mistake, stay patient and speak with love. They will get it!
You’ve Got This!
Keep in mind that this is a huge learning curve for your child and that seeing you be positive and patient throughout the process will help them tremendously. Take advantage of these tips and tricks and knock it out of the park!