It’s almost fall and you know what that means – back to school! And if your house is anything like mine, fall is also the season of CRAZY mornings – making breakfasts and coffee, packing lunches and backpacks, and trying to get out the door in time for school and work! The mornings during the school year can be so busy that I often feel like I’ve lived an entire day before I even pull into my parking spot at work!
My kids are now able to get themselves ready in the morning (for the most part), but before this year, one of the things that took the longest was helping them get dressed. Promoting independence with dressing skills is so important for kids’ self esteem, for being able to function independently at school, and for potty training…and it goes a long way toward preserving your sanity on a busy school morning!
Did you know that kids begin to demonstrate dressing skills as early as one year old as part of typical child development? Here are the ages at which most kids are able to complete various dressing skills:
Here are some of our favorite ways to work on independence with dressing skills with kids:
Practice pulling clothing up and down, on and off.
-Snap together two Rapper Snappers and then snap the ends together to make a circle. Have the child put the loop over his head and pull/push it down over his body to his feet. Then have him pull it back up over his body and up and over his head! Rapper Snappers are great a great tool for this because you can adjust the size of the circle, making it smaller for more of a challenge or bigger for easier practice.
-Tie a length of Theraband in a loop. Make the loop large enough that it will fit around the widest part of the child’s body, but not much bigger than that – you want there to be some resistance for the child to have to work against. Have the child take the loop of Theraband and pull it over his head and down over his entire body to his feet and back up again! See how quickly he can do it, and repeat several times for practice. This simulates pulling a shirt and pants up and down on the body.
-Make smaller loops with the Theraband and have the child pull them onto and off of his feet to practice with putting on and taking off shoes and socks.
-Another great way to practice putting on and taking off shoes is with slippers! They’re softer, less rigid, and easier to get on and off – but still require the same movement and a little bit of strength too!
Use the “Flip Trick”! This one is great for increasing your child’s independence with putting on his coat. Place his coat on a table, chair, or couch with the collar toward the edge (front of the coat should be facing up). Have the child stand at the edge of the surface and place his hands and arms partway through the sleeves. Show him how to flip the coat up and over his head, sliding it the rest of the way onto his arms as he goes!
Play Dress-Up! As an OT, this is my favorite way to work on dressing and clothing fasteners with kids. Practicing putting your clothes on is a whole lot more fun when you come out looking like a firefighter or a princess, right? Keep a bin of dress-up clothes in your living room or classroom and encourage kids to put on and take off shirts, dresses, pants, and accessories. Bigger clothes are great for practicing the motions needed for dressing without the resistance of tight elastic or tight-fitting items.
Save it for Bedtime and Bath Time! I often recommend to the families I work with at school to save practice with dressing skills until the evening, when things aren’t as rushed and stressful. Have kids help with taking off their clothes at the end of the day and then with putting on their pajamas, socks, and slippers! The most important thing is to give kids an opportunity at some point during the day to practice these skills independently!
Work on Clothing Fasteners As your child is working on dressing and undressing himself, you can also work in some practice with the fine motor skills needed for buttons, zippers, and other clothing fasteners too!
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