Teaching children to dress themselves

by Caroline Gee. Help your child to acquire the skills they need to dress themselves independently.

Child smiling in coat and hat

Introduction

Your child is at an exciting stage in their development when they are learning and growing in confidence all the time. You can build on this confidence and encourage self-reliance by helping your child to develop the skills needed to dress themselves independently. These skills will be very helpful when it comes to starting pre-school or school.

How CBeebies can help

Getting dressed can be really fun. Why not let your child help choose outfits for Charlie and Lola to wear by playing the Charlie and Lola Dressing Up game on the CBeebies website? Chat about what clothes they have chosen for each character and whether they have any clothes that are the same.

There is also a great Charlie and Lola ‘Make & Colour’ activity you could have fun doing together. Print out the pages to make your own Charlie and Lola paper dolls.

How to make a magic moment

Part of getting dressed is picking suitable things to put on. Gather a selection of clothes (such as T-shirts, shoes, hats and trousers) in different sizes (some that will fit your child and some that won’t - try adding dolls’ clothes or clothes that belong to you) and pop them in a laundry basket or big bag. Take it in turns to pick out an item of clothing and decide if either of you can wear it. Once you are both dressed, find a mirror to look in and decide if the clothes suit you!

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Top tips

  • Your child’s fine motor skills are developing at this age, but try to make things easier for them by choosing clothes that have easy fastenings such as Velcro, large openings for their head and arms and elasticated waists (rather than zips or buttons).Limit the choice of clothes that you put out for your child in the morning, making sure that all of the things you are offering them are suitable! That way, they feel they are making the decisions - and you are confident that whatever they choose will be fine.Tempting though it is, try to let your child take the lead when getting dressed. To begin with, guide them hand over hand, explaining what you are doing and giving lots of visual cues. Remember to step back when possible and aim to let your child complete the last step of putting on each item of clothing so that they feel they have achieved the task themselves.Practice makes perfect, so find different ways to apply the skills of getting dressed such as dressing and undressing dolls and toys or having dressing-up races in the garden.   If your child is reluctant to get dressed in the morning, try adding an incentive such as a sticker chart or a beat-the-clock system. Perhaps try explaining that as soon as they are ready there will be a delicious breakfast waiting for them!

Expert opinion

Young children learn the importance of organisation by doing things for themselves. Learning to get dressed helps build their confidence and self-reliance, and is a valuable way of developing the fine motor skills that will become so important when they begin to mark make and write. 

Children enjoy the feeling of being in control of some aspects of their lives and picking out and putting on their own choice of clothes is a great way to motivate them towards being more self-sufficient and grown up.

Caroline Gee, Reception teacher

Parent's tale

My 4-year-old son could dress himself but always needs a lot of nagging. I started to lay all his clothes out on his floor the night before in the shape of him, so socks at the end of the trousers, T-shirt at the top. He loved 'Flat Nat' as the clothes were known. He would often be found dressed and in its place in the morning, giggling to himself.

Kav (mum of two), from Bristol

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