Learning how to put on their clothes and shoes is an important step for children to take on the road to independence. The ability to get dressed by themselves will give them confidence to function independently at school and, once your child has it mastered, it’s one less thing for you to worry about in the mornings!
If your child starts school in September then now would be a great time to start developing their dressing skills, giving a few weeks practice time before the big day.
Getting dressed – putting on clothes in the right order, fastening buttons and zips and tying shoe laces – involves mastering many skills. We need balance and co-ordination of movements to get our limbs in all the right places, refined motor skills to deal with many types of fastenings and an understanding of concepts such as left/right and inside/outside.
Teaching these skills often requires a lot of patience but the results will be worth it in the long run. Using TomTag to make a simple visual checklist showing what order each item of clothing should be put on is a good place to start. You can also help by laying out clothes the night before, making sure they are the right side out.
With practice and encouragement your child will soon be dressed and ready to go before you are!
With most schools these days having a uniform, there will be little choice in which clothes your child can wear for school. There are some things you can do though to make things a little easier for them.
Only undo the top few buttons on a shirt or blouse and put it on over the head so that fewer buttons need to be done up. Buttonholes on new shirts are often tight so opening them up slightly may help.
Choose trousers or skirts with elasticated waists where possible and opt for loose fitting items with velcro or large buttons which are easier to put on than tight fitting ones.
If your child’s uniform includes a tie and an elasticated version isn’t an option, this useful video of a young boy demonstrating how to tie a tie may help.
Begin with large, short socks that slip more easily over the feet. Socks with coloured heels make it easier to get them the right way round. Try Little Grippers school socks for socks that stay on – and up! – all day long.
Having a designated place for shoes will save valuable time spent hunting for them in the morning! Of course, these days there are many alternatives to traditional laced shoes available but at some point the skill to tie laces will be required. The ‘bunny ears’ is a popular method and YouTube is an excellent resource for demonstrations of this and other tying methods.
Try practising using different coloured, longer laces but if your child continually struggles with tying laces then there are now several products on the market (such as Hickies, Greepers and Lock Laces) that can help.
Start practising with different, larger types of coat. If the sleeve by sleeve approach isn’t working try this flip flop over the top method wonderfully described by Connectability.ca – you might want to stand well back until they get better at this one though!
Attach a zip pull or a key ring to the zip to help with gripping the tab and make zipping easier.
Don’t forget to give plenty of praise to your child for their efforts at each stage and consider using a star chart to help them establish their routine.
A great approach to use is ‘backward chaining‘ where the child learns the last step first. Once they can do the last step, teach the second to last step and so on until they have mastered them all. The great advantage of this method is that the child always gets the reward of completing the task themselves.
Sensory and developmental issues
If your child is sensitive to clothing, EcoOutfitters offer school clothing made from 100% pure organic cotton.
Check for labels and seams that might cause irritation and cut them out where possible. Washing clothes several times before wearing helps to soften them too.
Dressing in front of a mirror provides important visual cues that can help a child with sequencing, body planning and body awareness. If your child continues to have difficulty with dressing, a qualified occupational therapist should be able to help.