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Parent guide: getting dressed


Children are naturally driven to be independent! One of the ways your little one will want to do this is by wanting to get dressed by themselves.

While this can be slow and frustrating (not to mention the funky combinations!) it’s a great way for your little one to practice a range of skills, nurture their creativity and feel more confident.

Once they’ve mastered getting dressed, it’s one less challenge in the morning and a step closer to being ready for school!

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits of your little one dressing themselves, the milestones you can keep an eye out for, some handy tips and additional resources!

Let’s dive straight into our parent guide to getting dressed.

The developmental benefits

Your little one being able to dress themselves comes with a range of developmental benefits, including:

  • Cognitive skills – sequencing what items to put on next, learning what kind of clothing is appropriate for an activity or weather etc.

  • Gross motor skills – putting arms into sleeves, balancing to put on trousers.

  • Fine motor skills – doing up zips, Velcro, buttons.

  • Expressive art and design – Being creative and expressing themselves through clothing!

Literacy and math skills can also be developed by chatting about the type or colours of clothes, number of clothing items, number of shoes etc.

Preschooler with dinosaur toys

Milestones to look out for

Every child develops at their own pace. Here is a rough guide to what you can expect in the learning process:

At 1 years old

  • Hold out arms and legs for clothes and push arms and legs through clothes.

  • Pull off socks and shoes.

At 2 years old

  • Try to put socks or shoes on.

  • Pull-down trousers with elasticated waists.

  • Put on loose shirts or coats but not button up.

At 3 years old

  • Pull zips up and down.

  • Fasten chunky buttons.

  • Pull on socks and shoes (though usually on the wrong feet).

  • Take off clothing items without much help.

  • Put on clothing with some help.

At 4 years old

  • Know back and front of clothing.

  • Fasten shoes and belts – but not bows.

  • Start to identify the right feet for shoes.

  • Connect zips and fasten them.

At 5 years old

  • Dress with minimal help.


Some tips to help

Dressing your little one yourself can often seem like the quickest and easiest option but try to be patient whenever time allows to help support your child’s progress.

When getting started you can support them by:

  • In the early stages, talk to your little one as you dress them e.g. ‘put your arms up so I can pull your t-shirt over your head’ or ‘let’s put a hat on because it’s cold out’.

  • Allow time for your little one to get dressed so you don’t need to rush them.

  • Don’t jump in to help when your child struggles. Give them time to figure out how to do it themselves – this will help them feel more confident in their abilities.

  • Choose clothing with logos or pictures on the front to help your little one know which way around to wear it. Show them tags and explain these go in the back.

  • Choose clothes that are easy for your little one to take on or off without help e.g items with big buttons, velcro or elasticated.

  • Provide a range of fun dressing-up clothing for your child to practice with. You can also use teddy bears or dolls for practice.

Speak to your nursery key person or health visitor if you have any questions or concerns.

Additional Resources

Books to read together

We Can Get Dressed: Putting on My Clothes by Campbell Books, Marion Cocklico 

Froggy Gets Dressed by Frank Remkiewicz & Jonathan London 

Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming

Links for additional reading



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