How to help autonomy in dressing?

Posted by Pascale de Montigny on

At what age should a child be able to dress themselves? When can we expect him to put on his shoes and tie them? And the buttons, the zippers? We bet that this journey towards autonomy is at the heart of the lives of many parents of children between 0-6 years old! As an occupational therapist, supporting the development of children's autonomy and solving problems when they arise is also at the heart of my practice.

The beginning of autonomy in dressing often begins as early as 1 year. The child begins to take off his hat, his stockings, his shoes, his trousers if he has descended to the level of the knees. Between 1-2 years, the child collaborates (if he wants to) by stretching his arms and legs. He first learns to undress in loose clothing. He can also raise and lower his zipper if it is already engaged. The addition of a little friend-zip on the zipper of the coats can also help little fingers who are still clumsy in this task!

2-3 years old: ME CAPABLE MOM!

At this age, the child wants to do more and more things ALONE. Fine motor skills are sometimes a brake on this desire for autonomy, which is completely normal. He can usually undress on his own and begins to put on some looser pieces with some errors in the direction of the clothes. This is the perfect time to name out loud the steps, the name of the clothes, the parts of the body so that the child integrates the sequences and his body diagram.

3-4 years: The affirmation continues...

It is the pursuit of ME ALONE! The child dresses alone for the looser pieces and can usually completely unzip their zipper.

4-5 years: The beginning of autonomy

This is often the age when the child can dress and undress alone, except sometimes for tighter clothes or small ties. He manages to manage his zipper on his own (including being able to snap it on), the biggest buttons in front of him and masters the dressing sequences well with less and less error. He may start to tie knots.

5-6 years old: Starting school!

He usually manages to put his clothes and shoes on the right side. He can fasten the little buttons and is starting to make bows if he gets a chance to practice.

How to help?

Dressing is at the heart of routines! Who says routine, says the time that is counted. It is often this notion of time that causes us as parents to tend to limit the development of our toddlers' autonomy. It's obviously much faster to help them!

To encourage the child's collaboration, try to give him choices. For example, the choice of sweater color or type of pants. But also small choices like: Which shoe will you put on alone and which shoe will be put on by mom or dad? Do you prefer to wear your pants or your sweater alone? You tie 2 buttons and mom ties 2 okay? Thus, your little one will develop his self-confidence by feeling proud to have the power to choose!

Visual aids for the routine and a timer are also a great help for the child to gain autonomy and better understand the concept of time. For a child who is more often on the moon and who objects to getting dressed in the morning despite being able to do it alone, it may be interesting to give him a realistic time expectation via a visual timer and to gradually decrease this time when it gets better.

You can also choose to develop dressing autonomy in a context other than the morning and evening routines! Playing dress-up, doing a treasure hunt for clothes around the house (when the child finds a piece, he must put it on), naming the parts of the body and the steps you do when you dress him, drawing a figure on a piece of paper and draw clothes or even learn to attach buttons and zippers to clothes placed in front of the child. In short, take advantage of the summer to relax the routine a little and have fun developing the autonomy of your little ones.

Emilie Petit

Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Mom

Clinic For the pleasure of growing up

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