Understanding the Milestone
Being able to get dressed is a fundamental component to participation in daily life. Kids’ ability to dress themselves plays a big part in relieving family stress and improving family routines. Not only is it helpful when a child can dress him or herself, but it’s also beneficial to the child in many ways. They work on building up strength, range of motion, coordination, memory, sequencing, spatial awareness and body awareness, as well as learn how to complete a daily activity that is important and meaningful to them.
The ability to complete the functional task of dressing requires various gross motor skills (lifting arms and legs in specific coordinated motions into shirt sleeves and pant legs and balancing to take off shoes and pants), balance and coordination skills. A child moves along developmental stages gradually learning the gross motor skills needed to undress and dress.
It’s important to let your toddler have a go at doing as much as he can as he grows. Dressing and undressing helps him to coordinate his arms and legs better. And trying to put on clothes also helps him to learn about using him fingers for those fiddly tasks.
What & When to Expect the Milestone?
It’ll be a slow process, but from around 12 months old, your toddler may start to show an interest in helping you to get him dressed. But however determined he becomes to do things for himself, he’ll need your help for a long time yet. At this stage, he may just hold out his arm for a sleeve and a foot for a shoe.
During the initial stages of learning to get dressed, everyone in the family needs to be doubly patient and support a child’s newfound progression towards childhood.
Activities & Stimulation
Dressing should not be seen as a chore. Try to keep it fun by playing dressing up games and dressing toys. When dressing dolls, try using a doll which your child can relate to as being of a similar age. This will give your child a clearer idea of how to organize dressing.
Following are some Pre-dressing skill Activities:
Dressing dolls give good practice opportunities.
Matching socks game. Place a variety of socks in a pile, and your child has to find pairs and put them on.
Completing threading activities. Getting them to copy a pattern of various sized beads on thread (wool is better for larger beads) to improve pattern recognition. Adapt the task by getting the child to pull desired bead from bag.
Complete lacing activities using lacing boards to develop fine motor skills such as grip, release and eye-hand co-ordination. A shoe shaped piece of card or shoe box with holes in can be used to practice lacing and tying shoes.
Foot massage. Give the child a foot massage to increase awareness of feet. This can also be achieved by walking on various surfaces barefooted, grass, concrete, etc. Do these as a preparation for putting on shoes and socks, tying shoelaces.
Clothes pictures. Make a picture representation of the clothes your child is wearing and get him to talk through what order to undress/dress in. These pictures can then be used as a reference point for future dressing sessions.
Let your toddler do as much or as little as he can by himself. If he struggles, encourage him to keep trying by leaving a last small step for him to finish. For example, pulling off a sock you’ve already tugged down a little, or pulling up his trousers from just below the waist. Be patient and tell him how well he’s doing every time.
What Not to Worry about?
It’s only natural to become anxious about your child’s development. But every child develops at his own pace, and yours may be more interested in learning other set of skills before learning to get dressed. So try not to worry too much if your child’s developing differently than other kids of the same age.
When to Talk to a Professional?
However, if your child hasn’t shown interest in helping you to get him dressed by the time he’s two years, even after giving him space to do so, speak to your doctor. He can assess your toddler’s development.