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Kids Getting Dressed: How to Teach Your Child to Dress Themselves

toddler wearing cute tutu outfit

Kids getting dressed on their own is adorable…at first. But when you’re crunched for time in the morning, watching your little one struggle to put on the cute toddler top you laid out for them can quickly become a lesson in patience for you. The good news? Learning to get dressed and undressed is a skill that most children master by the time they turn five years old. And, like many toddler milestones, teaching your little one to dress themselves can help them develop several skills, including gross motor, fine motor and cognitive skills. Read on to learn how you can help your tot learn this vital lesson faster (and get both of you out the door much quicker).

When Do Kids Start Self-Dressing?

Kids getting dressed on their own is a complicated skill, so don’t expect your little one to master all those buttons and zippers overnight. Self-dressing typically starts with your tot slowly learning how to undress themselves (enter: the naked phase of toddlerhood). To help you set reasonable expectations, based on information from choc.org, here are the approximate ages for when your child will learn various aspects of dressing themselves:

Age 2 Years Old: 

  • Begin holding out arms to push through a t-shirt or coat.
  • Take off socks 
  • Push down pants with an elastic waist.

Age 3 Years Old: 

  • Take off an unzipped coat.
  • Put on socks with little help.
  • Unbutton large, uncomplicated buttons.
  • Put on a loose shirt with little assistance.

Age 4 Years Old:

  • Take off shirts without help.
  • Lace shoes.
  • Put on socks the right way each time.
  • Unbutton snaps, zippers and buckles with little to no help.

Age 5 Years Old:

  • Put on clothing without help or supervision.

Tips to Teach Your Child How to Get Dressed

Most toddlers begin showing an interest in dressing themselves by age two. If you think that your little one is ready to start developing their own sense of style, here are a few tips to help your tot dress for success. 

Keep Outfits Simple

preschooler in blue bear dress

It’s no secret that toddlers and even some preschoolers can become easily frustrated by, well, just about anything. To avoid an epic tantrum in the morning, be sure to keep your child’s outfit as simple as possible. Think loose-fitting clothing with no buttons, zippers or clasps. Shirts with large openings and pants with elastic waistbands are also good options.

Show and Tell

It doesn’t matter how advanced your child’s verbal skills are or how intelligent he or she is because learning how to get dressed can be a tricky skill for children to master. To help your little one learn faster, begin teaching them basic dressing techniques, like how to hook their thumbs into their elastic pants before pulling them down. Remember to talk them through the process. If necessary, take their hands in yours and guide them through the motions.

Allow for Extra Time

Teaching kids to get dressed on their own requires time and patience—two things that parents are often short on in the morning. Even though it can be frustrating to wait for your little one to put on their pants all by themselves, it’s important to give them the time and space they need to get dressed. Consider getting started 15 to 30 minutes earlier to take away the frustration and anxiety.

Recognize a Job Well Done

Once your child starts dressing on their own, they’re probably going to make more than a few mistakes. For instance, they might wear their shirt backwards and their toddler leggings inside out. When this happens, resist the urge to nitpick over your tot’s clothes and focus on the positive instead. Did your child get their shirt on all by themselves without any help from you? Praise them for a job well done. If you’re not going anywhere that day, you may want to just allow your child to wear their shirt backwards. The next day, you can gently remind them that the tags go in the back.

Getting Dressed without Stress

Teaching kids to get dressed on their own can be challenging for everyone involved. But just remember that your child isn’t doomed to wear their t-shirt backwards forever. Be patient and try not to put any unnecessary pressure on your child. They’ll learn how to dress eventually!


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