It is Monday morning and you are trying to squeeze your three year old into a nice yellow t-shirt, but instead you are dealing with a full rebellion. Your child insists on that dirty purple t-shirt in the washing machine and wants to dress independently.
At three, most little preschoolers are trying to exercise their own will and want to prove to everyone that they are all grown up. It is adorable, sure, but also infuriating.
So when can parents reasonably expect their children to dress themselves. Is three too young? Actually, age does not matter so much. What matters is whether they have the necessary skills it takes to dress on their own:
? Gross Motor Skills: Being able to stand on one leg while holding your own pants, pulling your shirt off and on over your head, etc.
? Fine Motor Skills: Being able to pull up zippers, figure out buttons, laces and clips.
? Cognitive Skills: Being able to understand what goes on first, in what order, and have the attention and patience to complete the task at hand.
By two and a half, children should have the necessary motor skills required to pull off their shoes and socks. So, before they start to dress themselves, children first learn to undress.
Once they do start to dress on their own, remember that things don’t go so smoothly. There are scary moments when they can’t seem to find the neck hole and run about like headless chickens screaming hysterically until you help them pull it down over their head. Sometimes those tight leggings or jeans are simply too challenging and your child will fling it away in frustration. And then there are days when you will feel like throwing a fit because you are already late but your child insists on dressing themselves at a snail’s pace.
So, if you want to dressing up time to be peaceful and happy,
- make sure both your child and you are well ahead of schedule and well fed.
- select two clothing options and keep them ready on the bed. Limiting the number of options to two makes decision making easier for children, and giving them choices keeps their spirits high.
- be patient when they make mistakes or get upset and don’t offer to help too quickly.
- let them assess the end result in the mirror because nothing gives a little three-year-old that sense of accomplishment as when they see themselves all dressed up in the mirror, knowing they did it all on their own.
A three year old dressing themselves might seem a daunting task, but apart from viewing it as a learning experience, remember to have fun with it. Keep a camera at hand to capture those adorable moments when a face emerges out of an armhole, or pants become cosy hats. With a little planning dress-up time can be a wonderful time to bond with your growing preschooler; to laugh and share a few tickles and many cuddles.