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Why your child needs to learn how to get dressed

girl dressed up for school

When I attended sports’ day at my son’s school last year, one of the funniest activities on the program was a dressing up competition for the 3-5 year olds.  For most of us parents watching and cheering our children from the sidelines, it was interesting to see the struggle between where the head and the arms should go as they wore their sweaters. On the mic was the teacher trying to urge them on. Reality hit most of us parents –getting dressed is an important skill for children to learn – but it can be hard for them. I was hoping to see a repeat of the same this year which involved more of outdoor gaming but anyway, I had a lot of learning to do. Parents can lay the groundwork when the child is a baby, and then help your child learn how to get dressed over the next few years.

For most parents on a typical day, we almost always go through the usual morning rush – you were supposed to be out the door five minutes ago, and your child is still putting on his socks. It’s no surprise that dressing your child yourself seems like the easiest and quickest option.

But your child needs to learn how to do it. The ability to dress themselves builds confidence, independence and a sense of achievement – and once your child has it mastered, it’s one less thing for you to do in the morning!


Getting dressed is about more than just putting on or taking off clothes. It helps your child develop many other skills, including:

  • Fine motor skills as he learns to fasten buttons and zips

  • Gross motor skills as he stands on one leg to pull on a pair of pants

  • Cognitive skills as he remembers what bits of clothing go on first, and builds the patience and attention to finish the task.

  • Language skills as he names types of clothes, colours and sizes.

  • Awareness of time and space as she learns to dress for certain occasions and weather conditions.

Teaching the basics

  • Teach them how to pick out clothes that are right for the time of day, the weather and what they’re doing that day – the tutu might not be the best thing for a bush walk!

  • Teach them to decide what to wear – the spiderman t-shirt or the truck t-shirt today?

  • Teach them how to put on and take off clothes and shoes.

  • Teach them how to do up buttons or zips, getting collars and waistbands and getting socks on the right way around.

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