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Lifeskills: Getting dressed

How to teach your child to dress herself independently

Posted: 2 May 2012
by Fiona McKim

Older babies and toddlers have an uncanny ability to undress themselves, whipping off shoes, socks or headgear at - well, the drop of a hat; but it takes much more skill and co-ordination for a child to get dressed independently.

From around 15 months, your child's hand-eye co-ordination will be advanced enough for her to do some of the simpler actions, such as holding her arms up as you put on her dress. With your help, she'll also be able to pull up her pants, trousers and socks, or pop her head through jumpers.

To make the task as simple as you can - and avoid toddler frustration - choose loose clothes that are easy to pull on and off. Zips, small buttons or other fiddly fastenings require a level of dexterity far beyond that of most young toddlers, so look for clothes with chunky buttons or Velcro.

  • Offer lots of praise for your child's efforts, and a discreet helping hand where needed.
  • As she becomes more confident, let her help pick out her own outfits. Offer simple choices. Storing out-of-season and party clothes out of sight will help prevent too many unsuitable choices - but remember that wearing a tutu and a pair of Wellington boots on a rainy day is part of a toddler's prerogative!
  • You can buy `learn to dress' dolls, or practise dressing a soft toy. There are also books about getting dressed  to familiarise your child with the routine. Recommended titles include Buster Gets Dressed by Rod Campbell and Black Dog Gets Dressed by Lizi Boyd.   

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