Teaching Children to Dress Themselves
You may have heard Dr Gummer on the radio recently talking about children’s love of dressing up and the difficulties parents can have getting children into appropriate clothes for school/nursery etc. She was being interviewed on the back of research from Nutmeg, the Morrisons Clothing brand that found that whilst 25% of parents give their children complete freedom when it comes to choosing what to wear, over 12% feel that getting children dressed in the morning delayed getting out of the door in the morning and can be cause of stress.
“Parents can make a rod for their own backs if they are not careful when it comes to getting children dressed. Young children enjoy dressing up but can be less keen to get themselves dressed in regular clothes. By giving children the freedom to dress up and get themselves dressed parents are helping them to develop independence that will be much appreciated by teachers when they start school (have you ever thought how much teacher time must be spent helping young children get dressed from PE, do up coats, go to the toilet – and how little time that leaves for learning to read, write etc?).
Half term and weekends are great for giving children that freedom, as there’s less structure and a little less pressure on timings during the holidays. So when it doesn’t matter what they wear, try giving children more choice about the clothes they choose – does it really matter if they walk around the supermarket dressed as a superhero?
School/nursery days are a different matter. It is completely understandable that parents who are tight for time, get their children dressed and ready in the morning. At some point you need to give them the freedom and independence to dress themselves and choose what to wear – you’re not going to be getting your teenager dressed, are you?
The problem is that for the first few weeks/months things will take a lot longer in the morning – that’s why holidays are a great time to do this. Choosing easy-on clothes with elasticated waists, big zips, velcro fastenings and easy buttons can also help children master the art of getting dressed.
The best way to learn any new skill is to break it down into simple parts or learn a simpler version of the skill first.
Take shoe lace tying. Children are not only learning where the laces need to go, they are still refining their fine motor skills. By using a bigger ‘lace’ such as a dressing gown belt, you remove one aspect of the task and enable a child to learn how to tie the ‘lace’ using bigger, gross motor movements that are much easier for young children. They can then progress onto smaller/thinner laces.
All parents are busy and it can seem that there’s never enough time to give children the opportunity to learn these important life skills. but by taking a longer term view of this and other parenting challenges, it becomes easier to justify the time and patience needed to give children the space and support to learn new skills. In parenting terms there is a huge amount of benefit in encouraging and supporting children to get dressed themselves at as young an age as possible. If your 3 year old can dress herself, she will probably take longer initially, but then will save you 5-10 minutes every day. In addition, she’ll be perceived as confident and more able when in nursery or preschool, If she can take herself to the toilet too, she’s more likely to be invited to play dates and you’ll find it easier to find childcare when you need it. Add to this the confidence that young children get from mastering a grown up skill and it quickly becomes a bit of a no-brainer to invest time in encouraging independence by teaching children to dress themselves.”
What’s your top tip for getting out in the mornings? Please share your suggestions below!
Categorised in: parenting advice
This post was written by Amanda Gummer