Dressing may seem like such a simple task and us adults do it quickly, automatically and without much thought. However, for our little ones, it involves mastering lots of motor skills and motor planning. Dressing requires fine motor skills, bilateral coordination (using 2 hands together in a coordinated manner,) visual motor skills, visual perception, balance, and body awareness.
Breaking things down into smaller, more manageable steps is the key to helping your child become independent with dressing. Introduce one article of clothing at a time and provide your child with verbal and visual cues as to where to place their hands and what they need to physically do with their hands/ body next. Of course, there will be days and where we’re in a rush and need to dress our kids in a hurry to get out the door as quickly as possible and that’s okay! Just be sure to try and set aside times where your child can sit down and take their time trying to dress themselves. Increased time to do this will help them focus better and provide more quality practice.
Engaging your child in fine motor activities can also help with dressing skills (such as buttoning or tie shoes.) Check out this page for a fun list of hand strengthening and fine motor activities you can do!
If you’re wondering what the development of self-dressing looks like or are curious to see general timelines of what steps are appropriate for each age, take a look below!
*Our charts only go up to 4 years of age. At age 5, children can typically dress themselves independently, but still may need help with some of the smaller buttons, tricky zippers and with tying shoelaces.
Christina Kozlowski, Occupational Therapist, OTR/L & Owner of Sensory TheraPLAY Box