We’ve offered some tips on setting your child up for success as they start learning to get dressed. Now that they’re nearly three, they’re ready to do more—though your child will likely still need your help.
Getting dressed is second nature to us, but for your child, each step is a new skill to learn, practice, and master. There are many different ways to put on clothes; whichever one you choose, try to be consistent.
Here’s how you can teach your child how to put on pants, shirts, dresses, and coats:
These are the steps for putting on pants, shorts, underwear, and anything with leg holes:
- Sit down on the floor or on a low stool and place the pants—with the legs facing away and the tag side touching the floor—in front of you.
- Put one leg through one pant hole all the way until your foot goes all the way through the bottom (this part may be the trickiest of all and will likely take a while to learn). Repeat with your other leg.
- Stand up and pull your pants up. You can use your thumbs to pull up and adjust the waistband (this last step, with some assistance, often happens between 26 and 28 months).
Shirts and dresses
Young children can easily get lost inside a shirt or dress 🙃 so the key is helping them learn which hole is for which body part. Tell them to do it like this:
- To do the sleeves last: put the shirt on the floor or on a low table, again with the tag side down, and grab the bit of hem that’s not touching the floor.
- Then pull the shirt over your head (note that many children will need help with this part, as the head can easily find its way into an armhole).
- To do the sleeves first: this is easier for some children, partly because it matches what they do with pants. Start with the shirt on the floor or on a low table in the same way, and reach in with one hand until it’s all the way through the end of the sleeve. Repeat with your other arm.
- With your thumbs, pull the tag side of the shirt over your head.
Coats and jackets
- Even a very young child can learn the “coat flip”: set the coat or jacket on the floor in front of you, button or zipper side up, and the hood by your feet (an adult will likely have to position the coat this way at first). Reach down, put your hands just inside the sleeve openings, and flip the whole thing over your head. With a little practice, the coat should end up in just the right spot (the sleeves may need a little adjusting).
Share simple, consistent phrases as reminders
Many families find success with phrases like “tag on the back” (a simple way for everyone to check they’ve put their clothes on the right way) or “lonely legs” (for those times when both legs go into the same pant leg). Try to use the same terms for specific parts of all clothing (theirs and yours), even if it’s something silly like “head hole” 😉
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