Tips on Teaching Your Toddler to Dress Themselves

While you may have enjoyed picking out outfits and dressing your infant and toddler, there comes a time when toddler independence comes into play. So how do you teach your toddler to get dressed alone? 

Even though your child might express wanting to dress themselves and have opinions on their clothing, it can take a good chunk out of your morning..especially when you’re in a rush. But don’t worry, we have a few tips on how to start teaching your toddler the ins and outs of clothing and make your mornings easier in the long run!


Why Do Children Need to Learn Dressing Skills?

Most parents may find that it’s not only a lot easier, but also quicker to just dress their child themselves. However, while it does save you time in the mornings, it doesn’t allow your toddler to learn and develop. Not only does it help them build confidence, independence, and give them a sense of accomplishment, there are some important skills your toddler learns when they start dressing themselves:

  • Fine Motor Skills: This is the ability to use your finger to handle and control small objects. This plays into fastening and unfastening buttons, zip up jackets, and tie laces.
  • Gross Motor Skills: This skill plays into balance and coordinated body movement. This includes specific controlled movements like putting one leg into their pants while maintaining balance on the other.
  • Cognitive Skills: This is another important skill that exercises patience and attentivity to complete tasks. Cognitive skills also include remembering which clothing piece goes where and the sequence of dressing.
  • Awareness: This goes into cognitive skills, where awareness of time and space is developed. It is when your child learns what to wear for certain weather conditions and other occasions.

How to Start: Clothing Choice

The first step of teaching your little one how to dress themselves is to set them up for success. This includes buying certain toddler clothing that will be a little easier for them to manage and practice with before leveling up to more complicated clothing.

Clothes Easy to Wear

While we don’t think twice about the clothes we wear on the daily, those buttons, zippers, and laces will be too much for your child to handle. Types of clothing to get are pants with elastic waistbands, tops with large enough neckholes for them to put their head through, loose arm and leg holes, stretchy and comfortable clothes, shoes with velcro instead of laces, and if you buy shirts with buttons, make sure they are large ones. 

It may be difficult for your kid to figure out which side of their shirt or pants is front and back. It would be helpful to get clothing that have a distinct front and back. For instance, buying shirts with a picture or graphic on the front or underwear with designs on the front. It could also help to buy clothes that have tags placed on the back. 

Easy to Access Clothing

In order for your child to exercise independence in getting dressed, be sure to put their clothing in drawers or spaces that can be reached and opened. You can also label these drawers with words or pictures they can recognize so they know what is in each compartment. It is also important to have a laundry basket as a space for dirty clothes so they can learn only clean clothes should be worn. That way clothing rules are established and your toddler knows dirty clothes shouldn’t be touched.


Toddler Dressing Tips

Teaching your child how to navigate through clothing can be a stressful and patience practicing task, but here are a few tips that can make this process a bit easier!


Set Aside Dedicated Time

There’s nothing more stressful than rushing for time in the morning and trying to patiently wait for your kid to pull up their own pants or find which arm hole they need to go through. Rather than rushing the learning process or even foregoing the entire process by only dressing your toddler yourself, set aside a dedicated time. Make time on weekends where you can slowly and patiently teach them.


Appropriate Clothing

While your child starts wanting to dress themselves, they could also start having strong opinions about the clothing they wear and want to choose what they wear for the day. Let them exercise their independence and choose their own clothing, but with limited options if they are younger. Rather than let them loose on the entire closet, let them choose between two different shirts and if they are older, then you can let them choose their own. 

In order to guide them in choosing appropriate clothing for the weather, talk to them about the weather that day and if it is hot, cold, sunny, rainy, or windy. By doing this and asking them questions about if they will be too cold in a tee shirt when it is raining or too hot in a sweater when it is warm and sunny outside, they will slowly learn what should be worn in different weather conditions. 


Start With Undressing

Rather than starting to teach your child how to dress themselves, start them off with undressing. Undressing is a lot easier for toddlers because it doesn’t require as much skills. So let your child undress themselves and praise them for their accomplishments too! By starting them off here, it’ll help them develop more confidence before they move on to the harder parts.


Assist Them Until They Are Ready

Start off slowly and have them dress themselves in parts. For instance, zip up their jackets while they zip down or put their heads through a shirt and hold out the sleeves for them to push their arms through. You can also hold their pants open and hold onto your shoulders for balance. If you want them to exercise more independence, you can then have them pull up their pants as high as they can and then help them with the rest. In essence, the motto here is slowly but surely!


Sitting Instead of Standing

With a kid without fully developed motor skills, sitting is definitely easier than standing. This is not only more helpful for when they are trying to dress themselves, but also with undressing. It makes it easier for them to pull up pants and underwear and even put on shoes and socks. 


Show Them How to Tell Front From Back

The ability to distinguish the fronts and backs of clothing is something your toddler may take a while to master. To help this process, you can show them the tags and labels that indicate the back of the clothing. You can also show them how the picture or graphic design on a shirt goes on the front. It’ll take a bit of practice, with a few misses along the way, but don’t worry, it’s just part of the process.


Focus on One Item at a Time

The process of getting dressed and the different articles of clothing can get a bit overwhelming. So rather than introducing everything at once, start in one area and move on to another once it is mastered. The little steps will help build your kid’s confidence when they are able to put on a certain article of clothing themselves!



Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. While you may want to constantly fix your child’s mistakes or nitpick at certain things, it can be discouraging. Rather than that, acknowledge their efforts and successes. And if they happen to wear a shirt backwards, you can lightly suggest that their shirt looks funny and if they refuse the fix, then let them be. Trust us, wearing a backwards shirt is not a big deal!


When Should a Toddler Dress Themselves

Now you may be thinking, when does my child need to start learning how to put on their own clothes and when should they start independently dressing? Well, toddler development is not a definite thing and each child moves at their own pace. For a broad starting point, you can slowly start to teach them and assist them, while letting them push their legs and arms through clothing holes at around one years old. It’ll be a learning process for a few years and by around five years old, your child should be able to dress without your help!

Teaching your toddler to dress themselves is no easy task and we hope these tips help make this process easier on you and your child!

If you’re looking for kid independence-friendly clothing, the best clothing for your toddler would be organic kids clothes. WithOrganic carries certified organic kids clothes for both infants and toddlers. It is made of 100% organic cotton so you can be sure they are not only soft enough on your child’s sensitive skin, but also comfortable for your toddler to move in. Since cotton is a stretchy fabric, WithOrganic’s clothing is a great option for them to be able to practice wearing themselves! 

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