Encouraging Your Child’s Dressing Skills: A Parent’s Guide


Helping your child develop dressing skills is a wonderful way to promote their independence and active participation in daily routines. Occupational Therapists can offer valuable support in nurturing these skills. Dressing involves a mix of abilities that lay the foundation for self-sufficiency, and as a parent, you can play an important role in this journey.

  • The Essential Physical Skills: Dressing relies on various fundamental abilities like fine and gross motor skills, body awareness, balance, coordination, and motor planning.
  • Mastering Clothing Fasteners: Your child will learn to handle buttons, zippers, and snaps. Balancing while reaching to put on clothes is also part of this skill.
  • Coordinating Both Sides of the body: Bilateral coordination and crossing the midline involve using both sides of the body to dress and undress, such as reaching across to put on shoes or socks.
  • Body Awareness: This skill involves recognizing body parts, distinguishing front from back, and identifying left and right sides. It’s important for both body and clothing awareness.
  • Planning and Sequencing: Motor planning helps your child logically follow the sequence of putting on and taking off clothes. It’s about organizing steps for independent dressing.

Strategies for Home Support:

  • Begin with Undressing: Start by practicing taking off clothes. This can be an easier way to introduce dressing skills.
  • Choose Simple Clothing: Opt for clothes with large and easy-to-use fasteners like Velcro instead of buttons. Elastic waistbands are also helpful.
  • Lay Out Clothes: Arrange clothes in the right order and direction. Ensure they’re turned the right way out to simplify the process.
  • Mirror Practice: Dress and undress in front of a mirror. This helps your child see their movements and build awareness.
  • Dress-Up Play: Incorporate dress-up playtime to make dressing more enjoyable and less intimidating.
  • Time and Patience: Allow plenty of time for practice. Avoid rushing, as this can make the experience stressful.
  • Break Down Steps: Divide the dressing process into small, achievable steps. This prevents overwhelm and builds confidence.
  • Visual Support: Utilize visual aids like picture schedules or a routine chart to show the order of dressing steps.
  • Adaptive Tools: Consider using tools like caterpillar laces, button hooks, or zipper pulls to make dressing easier.
  • Fine Motor Activities: Engage in activities like squeezing playdough, using clothespins, buttons, snap chains, and threading beads to strengthen hand muscles.
  • Seated Dressing: If balance is an issue, practice dressing while sitting down.
  • Consistent Practice: Offer frequent opportunities for practice, and use the same prompts consistently.

By supporting your child’s dressing journey, you’re fostering valuable life skills that promote independence and self-confidence. Remember, each step your child takes is a big achievement, and your encouragement goes a long way in making the process enjoyable and successful.


Autism Little Learners. (2023). Getting Dressed Clipart Visual Sequence. Retrieved from; https://autismlittlelearners.com/getting-dressed-clipart/

Children At Play. (2021). OT Dressing Tips Tricks And Fun Ways To Practice! Retrieved from; https://www.childrenatplayannapolis.com/blogchildrenatplayot/2021/2/15/ot-dressing-tips-tricks-and-fun-ways-to-practice

Kids Sense. (2023). Dressing: Zip it, Tie it Down and Button Up! Retrieved from; https://childdevelopment.com.au/blog/dressing-zip-tie-button/

Raising Children. (2006-2023). Suitable for 1-5 years. Teaching your child how to get dressed. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/health-daily-care/dressing/how-to-getdressed#:~:text=You%20can%20start%20to%20include,loose%2C%20elastic%2Dwaisted%20pants

Your Therapy Source. (2020). DRESSING SKILLS, PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPYGROSS MOTOR SKILLS AND INDEPENDENT DRESSING. Retrieved from , https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2020/04/19/gross-motor-skills-and-getting-dressed/

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