- In small ways every day, allow your child to experiment with their self-confidence. If your child is pleased with something he has done, as long as it is not destructive or against a house rule, acknowledge his good efforts. This positive encouragement and praise will uplift his self-esteem and encourage him to keep trying. With time he’ll naturally learn that the zipper goes in the front.
- Typically children have very little control over the decisions that concern them. Most parents choose their child’s meals, their child’s activities, which friends will come over for a play date and countless other details each day. So by giving your child control over smaller, less important details, like what to wear, you give your child valuable opportunities to practice independence and decision making, two important elements of emotional development.
- For young children, getting dressed is hard work. The arm, neck and leg holes are relatively small and probably look the same. Learning to put only one foot in each pant leg or a head through the big hole and the arms in the two smaller holes is a huge task to master. Getting dressed requires bilateral integration e.g.: as one hand pulls and another leg pushes. So encouraging children to dress themselves is a wonderful opportunity to practice important gross motor skill.
Encouraging your child to dress himself correctly
Yes, I know, it’s all fine and good to let your child dress himself, but I realize it would be a win-win situation if he dressed himself correctly. So, a few tips to help your child learn to dress himself correctly:
- Keep your child’s clothes in the bottom shelves of his cupboard or on a low rod so he can access them without your help. Consider investing in some inexpensive plastic drawers for your child’s clothes that can go on the floor of his closet or in his bedroom. Since these drawers are relatively small and very lightweight, your child will be able to easily open and close the drawers without help.
- Only put season-appropriate clothing in your child’s wardrobe. Your child likely does not understand he can’t wear shorts in the winter and will be discouraged if you make him take off shorts that he worked so hard to get on in the first place. By keeping only suitable clothing in your child’s closet, you can be assured that anything he puts on will be appropriate for the weather.
- Iron a permanent label to the backside of all of your child’s shirts, pants, and underwear. These days it seems that some clothing has tags on the back while some clothing puts tags on the side (or is tag-free). By putting the same tag in the back of all of your child’s clothing will make it easier for him to identify the back of each piece of clothing and get clothes on the right way the first time.
Try this at home
Instead of getting dressed alone in your bedroom each morning, get into the routine of getting dressed with your child. As you put on your shirt, articulate the exact motions you are doing of pushing your head through the biggest hole and then finding the left arm hole and pushing your arm through it while your right hand holds the shirt steady.
As you get dressed, encourage your child to copy your movements and get dressed with you. Seeing you get dressed will help your child visualize what he needs to do. As your child gets better at dressing himself, you can turn this into a game where you race against your child to see who can get dressed more quickly.
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