At 12 to 18 months, your child may help with dressing by holding his arms out for sleeves, or holding feet out for socks. Most children are ready to start learning to dress themselves at about 2 years of age. By 4 years of age, most children can zip jackets, button shirts, and put on socks by themselves. Many 5 year olds are still learning to tie their own shoes.
Your baby may start pulling off easy-to-remove items such as socks, shoes, or hats. You can start teaching your child by naming the items of clothing and the body part those clothes go on. Teach undressing before you teach your child to get dressed. It’s easier than dressing, and can get your child used to using his hands, arms, and feet with clothing.
When you decide it’s time for your child to start learning to dress, start with easy clothes, such as:
Learning to dress takes time, patience, and practice. Practice getting dressed when you and your child aren’t in a hurry. You can also practice in the evening when she can take time putting on pajamas, socks, and slippers. When you’re in a hurry, let your child do the easy tasks and help her with the harder tasks. Let your toddler choose between 2 t-shirts to wear for the day, and name them as you put them on her. Talk about the weather when you and your child are choosing clothes. Ask her whether it’s hot or cold, rainy or sunny. This helps your child understand that choosing clothes is about more than just picking favorites. Have your child sit down to get dressed.
Getting dressed can have a lot of steps. It helps to break it down into smaller steps and talk your child through the steps. For example:
Make it fun and remember to praise any attempts to do things by herself, no matter how much you helped. At first, praise your child often for doing the tasks involved in dressing. Once she is able to get dressed on her own, you don’t need to praise as often.
Once your child is able to dress herself (usually by age 4 or 5), encourage her to get dressed within a reasonable amount of time every morning. Here are some ways to help things go more smoothly.