Dress For Success, Preschooler-Style



A preschooler’s opinion about his abilities is mostly based on your response to him.  When you provide love and support, encourage exploration and curiosity, teach skills, and allow your child to make good choices, you are helping to build his self confidence.

To decide where to start with helping your child gain independence, it is helpful to make a list of all the things you do for your preschooler on a daily basis.  Start with tasks that you know your child has mastered or will easily learn, such as putting the cereal box on the shelf, or choosing a snack from two choices.  Asking your preschooler for help with something that you know they enjoy doing will encourage their participation.

Give your preschooler time to complete a task.  If you are in a hurry to get something done, consider giving your preschooler a part of the task rather than the whole task.  Let your child make mistakes so that they learn from them. 

On the other hand, your preschooler may need help when doing certain tasks.  Be prepared to step in to avoid overwhelming frustration.  You will likely need to put limits on what you will allow your preschooler to do. 

Here are some guidelines to help your preschooler become successful with dressing herself:

  1. Only put clothes in your child’s drawers or closet that are suitable for the season.  If you do not want her to choose summer dresses in the winter, then put them away in a box out of reach.
  2. Make her clothes easy to find.  Put shirts in one drawer, pants in another, and socks and underwear in another to make it simple for her to find things. 
  3. Buy clothes that are easy for your child to put on.  This will help increase her self esteem and make it easier for her to learn how to dress.
  4. Praise her when she dresses herself.  Your preschooler needs to know that she did a good job, and she will be likely to continue those tasks.
  5. Offer to help if she is experiencing difficulty, but do not force your help on her if she does not want it.
  6. Encourage your preschooler to dress herself but be available to help.  You can demonstrate how something is done and suggest she tries it.
  7. Use other objects in daily activities to practice dressing skills, such as buttons, snaps, and ties.  You can buy stuffed animals that are specially made to help children practice these skills, or you can create your own materials at home.

What can you do if your preschooler refuses to get dressed in the morning?  This is a challenge for many parents.  Here are some strategies for you to try:

  • Stay calm.  Try not to make a big deal of getting dressed.  Try to keep your sense of humour.
  • Establish a morning routine.  Getting dressed might not be best at the end of the routine if you are needing to get somewhere.
  • Give your preschooler two options for clothes the night before.  He can choose his outfit for the next day and leave it where it will be ready for him to wear.
  • If he insists on wearing the same clothes everyday, consider buying duplicates of the same type of clothing.
  • Distract him with stories or talk about the upcoming day while getting dressed.
  • Try using reward charts and lots of positive reinforcement.
  • Seek out other parents to find out what has worked for them.

Keep in mind that you and your preschooler will make mistakes along the way.  Your preschooler is busy learning rules and new skills, and it will take her a lot of practice.  Learning how to guide your preschooler takes a lot of practice and patience on your part!

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