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When Will My Toddler Start To Dress And Undress Herself?

4 min read

Toddler-hood comes with a flurry of activities as far as your child is concerned. She is doing a lot of things and doing it more confidently – be it walking, running, dancing, talking and even being impeccably potty-trained. Self-dressing is an important development activity during this stage.
Toddler puts on shoes
In the first look, being able to dress by herself is a major physical milestone. This is because dressing and undressing requires a lot of coordination between hands and legs and demands good dexterity and finger movements. But in our opinion, self-dressing is not just a physical milestone – it is a psychological milestone as it paves her way to be independent. Dressing and undressing by herself is also an emotional milestone for your toddler as now she can satisfy her need to wear the fur coat on a hot afternoon.

When Will My Toddler Be Ready To Self-Dress?

It is a very slow process, let us warn you. It is not going to happen as quickly as the first step. Here are some development stages:

  1. 1 year: By the time the baby is 12 months old, she will start showing great interest in her clothes. She is still too small to do anything helpful though. But she might lift her hands to put the sleeve and stick her leg out to put the shoes and so on. She might also start pointing out which clothes she wants to wear
  2. 1.5 years: By the time she is 18 months old, she will be good at undressing. That is she will throw away her hat, remove her shoes, pull off her socks and so on. However, she would not be able to dress herself yet
  3. 2-3 years: Her motor skills have developed exponentially by now and during the period between her second and third birthday, she will learn to do many tricks – like zipping and unzipping her jacket, putting shoes on her own, wearing a hat and so on. She is not, however, still completely ready to self-dress
  4. 4 years: By 4, she should have mastered all the motor skills required to dress and undress all by herself. She might still need some help though – for tying shoe laces, putting buttons in the back, tying a lace and so on. You will have to help her in these small touch-up activities

As always, these ages are only indicative and you need not panic if your child does not do something meant for his age. Research also shows that girls get better at self-dressing faster than boys. In any case, there are many ways to encourage your child to get interested in self-dressing.
Toddler buttons her shirt

How To Encourage My Child To Dress And Undress By Herself?

  • Practice makes perfect. Give your child plenty of opportunity to dress up. It need not be on herself. You can give her dolls or teddy bears and give a variety of sip-on and other clothes and shoes and let her play with all these. You can also give her a dress up kit for herself with papa’s big shirts, mama’s dupatta and so on. All this will spark her interest in wanting to do it herself
  • The dress-change before sleep time is a good time to start practicing. This is because in mornings you are in a hurry and the child is restless. That leaves no room for leisurely exploration. However, in the evening, it is more comforting for both you and your child to spend some time on pulling on the pajama right!
  • Help her learn it right. Always put on clothes the same way she would when she starts dressing. And do this consistently. The movements will then come naturally to her when she is ready
  • Do things gradually. Let her lead the way. Do not pressurize your child to do something out of frustration or peer pressure. It really does not matter if your friend’s similar aged child can pull of her socks and yours cannot. You can, however, help her build confidence by pulling off most of the socks yourself and encouraging her to do the last bit herself
  • Start with clothes that are easy to put on. Shoes with Velcro, pull-on frocks, trousers with elastic bands (as opposed to buttons and zips) etc.
  • Once she is bigger, arrange clothes in the order she ought to wear it. Undergarments first, followed by bottoms and tops. Keep socks and shoes for the last

For the mommies who have already passed this stage, how was your experience? Did you do anything different to encourage your child to dress and undress?
Little girl puts on socks

When Should I Be Worried?

If your child is not able to dress or undress herself by the time she is 30 months, the first thing you should do is ask yourself whether you are giving her enough opportunities. If you pitch in every time she needs to change, then you need to give her some space to fiddle around and learn. If you feel that she has a poor grip and is not able to pull off her shoes or socks even after you loosen them for her, she might have issues related to strength or dexterity and you should seek your pediatrician’s advice.

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