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Ways to Practice Dressing at Home  

Dressing is an important part of your child becoming independent, but when should you expect them to meet their dressing milestones? Dressing skills consist of putting on and taking off clothes (shirts and shorts/pants), putting on and taking off shoes and socks, being able to complete fasteners (buttons, zippers, snaps), and tying shoes.  

Dressing Milestones 

Just like with gross motor skills and fine motor skills, dressing skills have milestones to ensure your child is progressing at the rate they should.  

1.5 years old: Your child should be assisting with dressing.   

  • Remove socks  
  • Push their arms and legs through clothes 

2.5 years old:  

  • Able to undress 
  • Can help find arm holes and pull pants up 

3-4 years old: Dressing should be getting easier 

  • Gets dressed and undressed with little help 
  • Put shoes and socks on (might get orientation wrong)  
  • Button/unbutton large buttons 
  • Able to pull zipper up and down (once it is started for them)  

5-7 years old: Your child should be dressing and tying shoes with no assistance. 

Skills needed for dressing 

When looking at dressing, there are many different skills that we need to look at. First, do they have the balance to be able to put clothes on and take clothes off? When dressing, there are moments when your vision will be occluded, so keeping your balance will be even harder! Second, does your child have the body awareness to dress themselves and understand their body parts? Knowing where our body is in space is a very important part of being able to dress ourselves. If you have concerns with your child’s body awareness, check out this blog post on games to promote body awareness or this blog post for simple activities for proprioceptive input! Lastly, you will want to make sure that your child has adequate strength. If you notice that pulling on socks or pulling up pants is hard, you might want to look into hand/grasp strength.  

Practicing these skills at home  

There are many fun activities that you can do with your child to work on their dressing skills!  

1. Pulling a sock over the heel is very difficult, so practice with some fun rainbow scrunchies or rubber bands! This will help your child with using both hands and increasing hand strength to pull the scrunchie/rubber band open. For a bigger challenge, try to take off while standing to work on increasing balance!  

2.Use a lei to work on putting a shirt on and taking it off. Being able to navigate pulling something over our heads is a tricky skill. Practice using both hands together to lift over the head.  

3.Cut an old t-shirt into strips and tie it into a loop to practice pulling up and pulling down pants. This will help with grasping strength that is needed to pull and push and will also work with balance when stepping in!  

4.Practice opening and closing zip-lock bags for help with zipping. This will help with pinching strength and using one hand to stabilize as the other hand works!  

5.Try pipe cleaners when learning how to tie shoes.

Heather Markum, OT, Murfreesboro