Girl puts on a jacket but does it on the wrong way

Angeliki Chatzaki

The following techniques help the preschoolers to be able to quickly and easily put on any outfit.

Techniques to teach a preschooler to dress independently

From the age of 3, the child becomes more independent and skilled at dressing. With your guidance, he can wear his shirt, trousers, jacket and underwear on his own.

A few initial pieces of advice:

Patience: We give the child adequate time to get dressed and we are patient while his movements are still slow. We avoid dressing him ourselves so that he can learn the process and become more independent gradually. Ideally, we try our first dressing attempt on a day with plenty of free time.

Adaptations: We prefer trousers with an elastic waistband or, if they have a button, it should be easy to close. The child becomes more familiar with regular buttons after the age of 4.

Practice: Play with the child is important, for example the child can dress a doll, a bear, or generally a stuffed animal with arms and legs and at the same time practice all dressing steps. Practice in front of a mirror is also helpful, so that the child can have a full view of the body and understand more about the body shape.

Imitation: we dress up in front of the child so that he can see our movements, process them and copy them as much as he can.

Strength: the child needs a strong torso and arms to be able to handle and wear clothes. Read here some core strengthening activities and here about fine motor strengthening.

Follow the above step-by-step process:

Shirt

Boy tries to put on a shirt standind

1st method

  1. The child sits on the bed or a chair and places the shirt on his lap (the back of the shirt must be visible to the child).

  2. By picking up the back side a little with both hands, the child lifts the shirt and slips the head in and pulls it out of the hole.

  3. He then puts one hand through one sleeve.

  4. The other hand is put through the other sleeve in the same manner.

  5. Finally, the child straightens the shirt.

2nd method

  1. The child sits on the bed or a chair and places the shirt on his lap (in this method too, the back of the shirt must be visible to the child).

  2. By lifting the top of the shirt with one hand, the child puts his free hand inside to reach the correct sleeve. After his hand goes all the way through the sleeve, the shirt eventually will rise above his legs.

  3. The child then puts his other hand through the other sleeve.

  4. He picks up the top side of the shirt using both his hands and puts the head through the hole.

  5. Finally, he tastes success by pulling the shirt down and straightening it.

We can try both the above ways with the child and observe the one that works best. We continue to practice only the way that has a higher success rate.

Τrousers

  1. We put the trousers down on the floor from the front side.

  2. The child will sit on the floor and insert each leg inside the trousers.

  3. He pulls the trousers up as high as he can until he can see his toes.

  4. Standing up, the child pulls the trousers up. If it has a button, he closes it.

  5. If he does well without help in the above steps, he can then sit on the bed to put the trousers on and later stand with his back against a wall or stable furniture to keep his balance.

Underwear

The underwear process is the same as the trousers process.

Jacket

  • If there is a hood, the process is very easy. The child wears the hood and puts his/her hands through each sleeve.

  • If it doesn't have a hood, then he can lean it against the back of a chair (so we look at the lining of the jacket) and again puts his hands one by one through the sleeves. He lifts the jacket up so he can get out of the chair and wears it correctly.

Socks

Boy sits on the floor and puts on socks

  1. The boy is sitting on the floor.

  2. He grabs one sock and picks it up with his fingers so that the opening of the sock comes close to the fingertip part.

  3. Always make sure that the heel point is downwards.

  4. He places the toes in the sock and pulls the fabric towards the heel and ankle.

  5. He does the same for the other sock.

How can we provide assistance?

We start by showing the child the steps of the chosen method and let him try first. When he experiences any difficulty in a step, we guide him physically. In other words, if he cannot put his arm through the sleeve, we take his arm and move it towards the sleeve. After we give him the direction of the movement, we let him complete the step on his own. Gradually, as he practices, the need for assistance will become less until we won’t need to help at all. We don't have to tell him anything at that moment; physical help is enough.

Mother helps her daughter put on pants

You definitely need to be patient. Every child has different abilities and needs. Give the child adequate time to get used to the process and gradually reduce your assistance. By searching on the internet, you will find several videos about the above procedures.

We prefer the physical type of assistance rather than verbal, because it usually works well. However, in case the child needs extra help, then we can combine physical with verbal, i.e. moving the hand and at the same time talking and describing the movement, e.g. "now you put your hand inside the sleeve". Gradually we should reduce the assistance to the child until he can do it several times independently.

It is not a difficult process, but we must remember that each child has different abilities and development. We let him get used to the process even if he makes many mistakes. It is important not to discourage the child and to reinforce every good effort.

From the Synopsis Team

Angeliki Chatzaki, Occupational Therapist