Anyone who has a toddler will know how stressful getting them dressed in a morning can be. You’ve got somewhere you need to be and your strong-willed little one doesn’t want to wear clothes today.
You may be surprised to learn that your toddler is capable of dressing themselves. Not only are they capable, but they will actually enjoy the independence, leaving them eager to dress themselves in a morning.
Self-dressing is like any skill – it takes practice. The action of putting on clothes requires both gross and fine motor skills which your toddler is working on developing every single day. They will need your help to facilitate their learning, until they develop all of the skills needed for independent dressing.
Your job is to facilitate the learning process, preparing the environment for self-dressing and encouraging them to practice the isolated skills needed for them to dress independently.
Read on to discover the Montessori way of supporting your child to begin to dress independently.
Create a dressing station
First things first, make sure you’re set up for success. You can create a simple dressing station for your child with low shelves and hangers to display their clothes and a low chair for them to sit on to put on their trousers, shoes and socks.
It’s also a great idea to hang a mirror at the child’s level so that they can observe themselves while they’re getting dressed.
Offer the right amount of choice
Children love choices and it’s important to allow your child to discover their own likes and dislikes from a young age. However, choices can also be confusing and distracting to toddlers. Try to offer enough choice that it’s interesting, but not so many that it becomes over-whelming for your child.
It’s also important to make sure that the choices you offer are weather-appropriate. Start off by offering a couple of choices which are suitable for the weather and gradually increase the choices available as your child becomes more confident.
If your child does choose an option which isn’t ideal for the weather, for example choosing to wear a t-shirt on a cold day, you can pack a more suitable option to take with you in case they become cold. This is a great way for them to begin to understand natural consequences and they will soon learn which types of clothing are best for different types of weather.
Choose simple clothing
Set your child up for success by giving them child-friendly options. Try to avoid complexities such as buttons and zips to start with as your toddler may not yet have the fine motor skills needed to navigate these. Elasticated waists and velcro are great options while you’re building your child’s confidence and skills.
Allow plenty of time
Allow at least 10-15 minutes for your child to get ready. It’s important that they don’t feel rushed or they may lose confidence or become frustrated. If you’re running behind one morning, expecting your child to get dressed quickly may not be realistic.
You can encourage independence by only offering help when absolutely necessary – don’t take over. If you do need to help, only do as much as your child wants or needs. Try to allow them to do as much as they are able to themselves.
Your child has managed to put their t-shirt on after 15 minutes of hard work, but it’s backwards! Try to avoid pointing out mistakes. Your child may realise their own mistake and correct it independently, or they may just be proud of their success and not notice. Either way, pretend you haven’t noticed their mistake and let it go.
The only exception to this is if it’s for your child’s safety. For example, if your little one has put their shoes on the wrong feet so may trip, you may need to gently point this out.
Encourage maximum independence
Montessori methods are all about encouraging your child to have maximum independence. You can do this by encouraging your child to put their dirty clothes into the laundry basket and asking them to put away their clean clothes. Toddlers really enjoy having authority and ownership over their clothes, choosing where to put them and how to organise them.
Isolate the skills
Self-dressing requires both gross and fine motor skills – something that you toddler will continue to develop throughout their childhood. However, there are things you can do to support your little one’s learning in these areas, making it easier for them to master the skills required to dress independently.
There are specific dressing boards you can purchase which bring together many of the skills required for self-dressing, such as buttons, zips and velcro. However, you can also create simple activities at home without having to go out and buy anything. Try wrapping an old shirt around some cardboard so that they can practice fastening buttons. You can also encourage your child to play with zips, poppers and velcro on clothing to help to develop their skills.
Encouraging independent dressing at home
Teaching your child to be self-sufficient when it comes to dressing can feel like a daunting task. Encouraging your little one to become independent with dressing is a repetitive exercise and will take a bit of practice. However, supporting your child in learning to self-dress is worth the outcome of a competent, confident and independent child.