I Can Dress Myself

December 20, 2019

In all my years of working with parents, there is one certainty. Parents need as much help as they can get with their kids especially during the busy holiday season. Interestingly, they often don’t realize that their children can be their biggest helpers by learning how to do things for themselves. Understanding appropriate expectations for a child is what stops many parents from asking their children to complete tasks on their own. For example, I have come across many parents that shy away from allowing their child to use scissors or cut food with a knife for months or each years after the typical age. When it comes to children dressing themselves, parents often find it easier or faster to do it for them. This, however, hinders their opportunities to learn, problem solve, and develop the strength and muscle memory to be independent. It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging independence leads to independence. 

Self-dressing Skills

Below I have listed some general dressing skills for different age ranges.My hope is that parents will view this list with the intention of understanding whether their 1 to 6- year-old child is ready to learn or truly does need the extra help when getting dressed. 

Age 1

  • Helps with dressing by lifting or pushing arms and legs
  • Pulls off shoes and removes socks

Age 2

  • Removes unfastened coat and untied shoes
  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes for t-shirt

Age 2 ½

  • Assists with socks
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on coat 

Age 3

  • Puts on t-shirt with minimal assist
  • Puts on shoes without fasteners
  • Puts on socks
  • Zips up jacket attached to track
  • Buttons large buttons

Age 3 ½ 

  • Snaps or hooks fasteners
  • Unzips zipper on jacket
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Dresses with supervision
  • Finds front of clothing

Age 4

  • Buckles belt
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Laces shoes
  • Removes pullover garment independently
  • Puts belt in loops

Age 5

  • Ties and unties knots
  • Dresses unsupervised

Age 6

  • Closes back zipper
  • Ties bow knot
  • Buttons back buttons
  • Snaps back snaps

I hope you find this list helpful. If your child is demonstrating difficulty with dressing skills well below the age expectations, consider consulting with a pediatric occupational therapist. For tips on shoelace tying, check out this previous post and video

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is the Founder of Playapy and Creator of the PALS Handwriting Program. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and parent coach with 19 years of experience. Learn more at www.playapy.com.

Adapted from Christiansen, Charles H. (1994). Ways of Living: Self-care Strategies for Special Needs. Bethesda, MD:American Occupational Therapy Association.

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