Getting Dressed: When Should Toddlers Learn How to Dress Themselves?
Growth is the evidence of life, and with it comes independence.
For babies, becoming independent starts about 6 to 7 months after birth. Around this time, they start to develop an understanding of separateness and as they grow older, become increasingly aware of their existence. Such a concept is called ‘development milestone’.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental milestones include the baby’s first steps, smiling for the first time, and speaking their first word. For your baby to achieve these milestones, your role as a parent is paramount—and there are many ways to go about supporting their growth.
Like walking, talking and feeding himself or herself, learning how to dress up is a developmental milestone which you can help your kids achieve.
The Baby Steps of Gaining Independence
Although it’s at around 6-7 months old when your child may start to understand the concept of individuality, it’s only at approximately 18 months when they start to learn how to dress and undress themselves.
Learning how to dress up can help improve both their fine and gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills involve the coordination of small muscle groups, such as one’s hands and fingers. These skills can be observed in the fastening of buttons and zipping of zippers. On the other hand, gross motor skills involve the movement of the whole body and larger muscle groups–like your arms, legs and core for walking, crawling, and jumping, or for pulling up a pair of pants.
A Guide to Teaching Your Toddler
Kids will find it easier to undress themselves since it requires less coordination and motor skills compared to dressing. For that reason, you can begin by teaching them how to undress, starting from basic garments such as hats, socks, and slip-on shoes.
12 months to 2 years old
During this phase, your toddler should start learning to undress basic clothes and accessories such as t-shirts, pants, shoes, and hats. They can also start to remove jackets and find the armholes in their pullover shirts. This is when they will work more on their gross motor skills, though you can start introducing more fine motor movements towards the 2-year-old mark.
3 to 5 years old
If your baby is still having a hard time learning at this age, give them a helping hand and teach them the basics of self-dressing. For instance, encourage your baby to sit down while they dress up to make it easier for them. At this stage, you might want to start with elastic pants instead of jeans as they’re easier to take off.
For a quick recap, here are some notes to remember:
- Start with basic clothes like elastic pants, slip-on shoes, and socks. They’re easier to take off, making it faster for your child to learn. Building your child’s confidence and helping them feel like they can do these simple tasks goes a long way!
- Remember the fine motor skills – Encourage your toddler to button shirts and jackets. You can start once your child is around the age of 3 to 4 years old.
- If dressing is hard for your child, scale it for them and make it slightly easier! For example, teach your child to sit down while dressing. They will still be working on their gross and fine motor skills, just with a little help.
Independence at an early age starts with learning how to dress up without assistance. That said, each kid’s journey towards hitting their milestones is different, so pay extra attention to not compare them with their peers. As parents, we should be patient in guiding them along when it comes to dressing themselves. What matters most is being able to witness the baby steps in their growing stages. Embrace the moment with your little ones.