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How to Teach Your Child to Dress Themselves

Building an independent child is no easy task. It’s equal parts skill-building and developing a desire in them to take care of themselves, which any parent will tell you is at best a test of patience.  

One of the most important skills a child will develop is how to dress themselves. While dressing stylish is altogether a different skill, just being able to remember putting on all the necessary garments is the most basic level of a lifelong need to dress oneself.

We’ve put together six different tips for how to get children to dress themselves independently. This list incorporates different seasonal needs as well as various tactics to get kids - more than anything else - excited to dress themselves.

Have you used any of these tips to get your child to dress themselves? Or, do you have different tips and tactics for learning mothers? Leave a comment below!

But before we jump into it….

Before we jump right into how to get your child to dress themselves, a few points need to be made.

Be Patient

Depending on how old you begin teaching your child how to dress themselves, you’ll be faced with different levels of success. The failures you’re sure to run into should not discourage you - they are just indications that you are using the wrong tactics.  

What’s crucial is that you keep trying, until you find a way that works for your child. All children learn differently, and that variety also creeps into how they accept responsibility.

In the end, you’re getting a child to do something different than just teaching them something - you’re getting them to accept at least a small part of growing up and being independent. Treat these lessons with care, and you’ll find it will become easier to teach them even more as time goes on.

 Get Ready for Laughs

Kids are funny, and often don’t even know that they are. This experience will yield many photo opportunities where you’re wondering to yourself “What was my child thinking?” Cherish these moments, especially when you know you’ll be able to share them with your child when they get older.

Stay Open Minded 

You will most assuredly have to give in to your child’s creativity, whether a true creative power or a lack of understanding. If your child decides to wear a derby hat with a Superman cape, understand this is an exploration of a new facet of life - the ability to discover and make mistakes is the cornerstone of learning.  

Engage with Them

There’s something to be said about demonstrating a new skill to children and seeing how they pick it up.

Simply engaging with them over time will - perhaps slowly - give them the confidence to know what to do with a closet full of clothing.

Parents can do this easily by simply pulling out a piece of clothing, and trying to get the child to identify what it is, and where it goes on the body. Pulling out a shirt for example, you can ask your child three questions: 

  1. What is this?
  2. Where Does It Go On You?
  3. How Do We Put It On?

After some repetition - and all the corrections you may need to make - your child should be able to get the point of each garment pretty quickly. The next step is to slowly give them more independence until you can simply say “Go ahead and do what you will!”  

Play Dress Up

Many parenting experts know that games are a great way to engage children. Engagement, by all accounts, is one of the most important ways of fostering learning.

Dress-up is a game usually played with dolls, but when the subject is the child themselves, they can start to conceptualize themselves as the beneficiary of the skills needed to dress themselves.  

Especially if your child has tons of fun clothing - or, this may be an opportunity to upgrade their wardrobe - you can focus on even themed dress-ups like princess outfits, cowboys, and otherwise.

The “Seasons” Game

Seasons are a great way to make your kids think critically about what they should be wearing.

For instance, if it’s wintertime you can ask your child what kind of things they should be wearing. Then, after they’ve thought critically about what they should wear, you can use that inspiration to give them clothing to put on themselves. 

This can also be played out for all the other seasons. For the summer, you can even incorporate what your child should be wearing for swimming and other activities.

The important part about this method is to get your child to think. After their minds are engaged on an idea, such as “During the wintertime I wear winter jackets,” they will be more likely to put one on to follow along that path of thought.

The Incremental Method

Sometimes you need to take small steps.

These small steps typically come in the form of snaps, buttons, and zippers. Unzipping is one of the easiest dressing skills, and you can take advantage of the “fun” sound it makes. Plus, after you teach them how to unzip, the next logical step is teaching them how to zip.

You can also take this incremental approach to other types of clothing. For instance, after helping put your child’s feet through pant legs you can teach them how to simply pull them up. This is an approach of putting on pants that teaches them the more simple component of that skill before adding the zipper and buttons.

Starting with shoes is particularly easy. If you show your child simply how to put shoes over the ends of their feet, they’ll get the point that the shoes have to eventually be put on. Showing this to them over and over again will ultimately make them create a connection between the work of their own hands and eventually having a shoe on each foot.

Another approach to this is jackets. If you just put on the hood of the jacket, and let the rest of the garment hang off their head, you can then say “Alright, put on the jacket!” The process is already started for your child, so they just need to figure out the “hard” part.

Lay Out Clothing on the Floor

Diagrams are always helpful tools to learn something, and teaching your child how to dress themselves shouldn’t be any different.  

Here’s the scoop - lay your child’s outfit out on the floor in the arrangement they would be worn. When your little one looks at the display, they’ll start making associations with a physical form wearing the clothes.


Then, it’s not a far cry to see themselves wearing these clothes. At that point, the inspiration has sparked, and they can start fumbling around with trying to realize the vision that’s in their head as they see the clothes displayed on the floor.

Have Children Remove Their Clothes

There’s something to be said about thinking in terms of opposites.  

Having your children undress themselves gets them to think about the process of taking clothing off which, as you can gather, is the opposite of putting it on.

If a child takes off a shirt, they’ll almost instinctively pull the shirt up, and pull their head and arms out. After having taken that step, you can instruct them to then put the shirt on by doing the exact opposite. 

With this method, you’ll most likely have to guide them every step of the way. But, the act of taking clothing off will engage them enough to let the lesson stick.  

Bringing It All Back Home

Teaching your child to dress themselves is no easy task. But, neither is teaching them most things for that matter.

But, this important life skill will obviously follow them for the rest of their lives. But, there’s something even more valuable to learn about your child, and that’s how they learn best.

Children learn in all different manner of ways, but you’ll never find out exactly how until you start to teach them. Teaching your child how to put on clothing brings a lot of different faculties together - physical awareness, imagination, and others.

Take all the struggle involved with teaching your child to dress themselves as a way to get to know them more deeply. Whether they are good with arbitrary thought or are experiential learners, knowing about how they learn will foster a stronger relationship between you and your child.

Happy teaching!

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