Dressing is one of the first self-care skills children begin to complete. At times elements of this can be challenging, particularly fastenings and ensuring clothes are the correct way round. Children need to have acquired skills such as balance, dexterity, motor planning and spatial awareness.

Remember, it is always easier to undress first. Dressing is a harder skill to develop.

  • Establish a routine and set realistic goals (always dress/undress in the same way so that this is ingrained in memory, for example, top to bottom).

  • To increase body awareness, begin by naming parts of the body on the child and consider songs, games and books that will reinforce this.

  • Your child may benefit from dressing toys such as a teddy. It is easier to practice this skill on another object/person, before practicing on them. Once they can manage this, move onto dressing themselves.

  • Make the task as easy as possible – Don’t invest lots of time and energy on non-essential items e.g. shoe laces and ties until it is really necessary.

  • Use visual cues, such as labels/logos as cue’s e.g. labels at the back of clothes, pictures at the front. Try cutting a sticker in half and placing it in each shoe so they can easily identify which way around their shoes should be.

  • With buttons start with unbuttoning and practice first with larger buttons before moving onto smaller ones.

  • Think about using Velcro instead of buttons (replace button on top to look like a standard button fastening).

  • Sitting on the floor, against a wall for socks and shoes brings the task closer without needing to balance or bend over as much.

  • Lay clothes out, rather than keeping them folded. That way your child will be able to see which way is the front and which is the back.

  • Encourage your child to use a mirror to monitor what they are doing and to do a final check that they are neat and have finished dressing completely.

Backward Chaining

This approach can be used to help facilitate dressing. The adult performs most of the task and your child performs the last few steps of the sequence. They therefore feel like they have completed the task themselves, thus improving their self-esteem.

Continue practicing and allow the child to do more of the steps of the sequence. For example, if your child cannot do socks, roll them up, place them on their toes and allow them to pull them up over their feet.

Occupational Therapy Department
Please ensure that adult supervision is given when completing these activities.