There are a few self-care milestones that parents eagerly await, and independently getting dressed is certainly one of them! Toddlers are still mastering motor skills that are essential for dressing and undressing, so it may seem like an unattainable feat. But with your support and some skill-building exercises, your toddler will be ready to dress on their own in no time!
How to Help Your Toddler Learn How to Get Dressed
Parents and caregivers often dream of those warm days during babyhood when little ones can run amok in a diaper and get all those developmental benefits of naked time. But eventually, clothes happen! When toddlers learn to get dressed and undressed on their own, it helps them feel more independent. Here are a few tips for helping your child master these skills.
Start with Undressing
Since undressing is easier for them to accomplish solo, it’s a great place to start. It boosts self-confidence and may even spark their interest in learning more about the dressing process.
Practice Dressing-Related Words
This stage is a wonderful time to practice words and phrases that are associated with getting dressed. Remember to include sequence words (first, second, last), spatial words (front, back, underneath), and label clothing elements (armholes, pant legs). This improves their vocabulary and ability to follow instructions.
Use Visuals to Guide Them
Our brains are built to easily process visuals, so pinning up a step-by-step illustration of getting dressed can support this learning process. You can take pictures of your child going through each step or find images online. Be sure to hang them at your child’s height for easy viewing.
Get Dressed Together
Kids learn a lot through imitation, so give them plenty of opportunities to see how it works. Walk them through each step so they can see you do it first. For instance, take your shirt, find the tag, and identify it as the back of the shirt. Then, ask them to find the tag on their shirt and point to the front and back.
Try a Larger Size
Clothes are like puzzles for young kids, and the larger the pieces, the easier it is for them to figure out where everything goes. When practicing getting dressed, use shirts or pants that are a few sizes bigger to help them maneuver their bodies in and out of each item.
Dress While Sitting Down
Toddlers are still learning the art of balancing, so it can be much easier for them to grasp putting on socks and shoes and finding pant legs while sitting down.
Don’t Rush Through It
Remember that dressing lessons don’t have to happen every day! If you’re typically in a hurry in the mornings, save it for weekends or days without a strict schedule. Watching your toddler get lost in a long-sleeve shirt can be time-consuming and frustrating for both of you. Do it at a time when you can move slowly and enjoy practicing together.
Looking for more support? Don’t forget that the BabySparks program has great self-care exercises that focus on teaching little ones how to get dressed! Be sure to check out activities like Finding Sleeves of My Shirt, Putting on Socks, and Putting on a Shirt Without Help.