How To Teach Your Toddler to Dress Themselves

Lots of tots are ready to start learning dressing skills around age two. Here’s how to stock your little one’s wardrobe so learning how to get dressed will be easy, plus some tips to make it fun.

As your baby’s fine motor skills advance and their curiosity piques, they begin to make strides towards toddler independence. Your goal is to set the stage for your toddler’s development, to help them learn the basics of self-care.

Zipping Tips

Wow, this skill is a fun one. After all, zippers make a neat noise when you zip them right. But unzipping is easier to master than zipping up, so start there (at around 22 months). Start with a big plastic zipper to give your toddler an easier initiation. The M.O, for now, is you zip up and she zips down. At around 33 months, help her give zipping up a go by fitting the two sides in place at the bottom.

Pro Tip: Make this fun by telling her the zipper is a road and her hand a racecar.

Slipping On Shoes

Another dressing skill to try out at the two-year mark is putting on shoes. Stretchy, low-top slip-ons are best for beginners. Begin by encouraging your baby to scrunch up her toes to help ease her foot farther into the shoe.  Then pull on the heel to complete her Cinderella moment. Once she’s almost three, she can try a heroic solo effort. Sit her down and have her slide her foot in like she’s been doing for a year. Postpone laces and buckles for now. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, velcro is a toddler’s most prized companion.

Pulling Up Pants

As with zippers, pulling down pants is a lot easier than pulling them up. Start with elastic waistbands and help your toddler step in by holding the pant legs open. Offer your hand or shoulders for balance. Once her pants are at her ankles, say, “Hmm, those pants don’t look right down there. What should we do?” If she has trouble getting things going, help her hoist ’em up to her thighs. Then coach her as she tugs those tiny trousers to the top. (Remember, practice makes perfect, so if she only gets ankle-high the first few times, that’s fine.)

Putting On a Jacket

Around the three-year mark, you can start teaching your toddler how to put on a jacket. Begin by laying an open jacket on the ground, front-side up. With the hood at her feet, have her stand over it and bend down to put her hands through the sleeves. Next, get her to pull it up to her chest. Well done! The jacket is on. Only backward. Ask her to raise her arms up to the sky so the jacket goes over her head, then wiggle the jacket down behind her back. Ta-da!

Slipping On a Pullover Top

Around your tot’s third birthday, you can start teaching her to put on her own pullover T-shirt. Stand her in front of a mirror (you stand behind her) and guide a shirt over her head. When you’re at her forehead, say, “Peekaboo, I can’t see you,” and ask her to pull the shirt down over her face and around her neck. Hold out the sleeves and tell her to push her hand and arm through, one at a time. This is T-shirts 101, so stick to loose crew and V-necks for now. Turtlenecks can come later.

Pro-tip: She can hone this craft by practicing on her dolls or action figures.

Armed with these tips and techniques you can teach your little one a valuable life skill in a fun and engaging way.

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