- Claire Murphy, MOT, OTR/L
1, 2, 3, 4 I Can Zip It On My Own
Dressing is a much harder task than it looks, especially for a young child. Self-dressing requires many skills, including: strength, coordination, motor planning, visual perceptual skills, understanding of left and right, and bilateral coordination skills. Practice is very important in order for young children to master and feel confident performing self-dressing skills on their own.
It can be easy for parents to help their children with self-dressing and managing fasteners. It saves time! It prevents meltdowns!
However, there will come a time when it is important to encourage your child to become independent with self-dressing skills. Once a child is school aged, they will want to be able to manage clothing independently during toileting routines and to dress and undress independently for gym. Being able to dress themselves will give them confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Below are general guidelines of developmental milestones for self-dressing skills by age:
1 year old:
Help with dressing by pushing arms and legs through clothing
Take off socks and shoes
2 year old:
Helps pull down pants
Take off unfastened coat
Unbuttons large buttons
3 year old
Puts on shoes without fasteners (may be on the wrong feet)
Puts on socks (heal might be on top)
Independently pulls down pants
Unzips and zips zippers once the zipper is on the track
Button large buttons
4 year old
Removes pullover garment independently
Zips jackets independently
Identifies front and back of clothing
5 year old
6 year old
How you can help at home?
Allow your child extra time and extra practice while they are learning new skills
Provide opportunities to practice outside of times when your family might be rushing out the door
Encourage your child to play with dress up clothes and/or larger clothes to help make learning self-dressing skills fun and entertaining
Hold your child’s hands while complete dressing skills in order to help them learn the motor plan to complete the task on their own
Dress in front of your child in order for them to watch someone else get dressed, encourage your child to copy your movements as you get dressed
Who can help if your child requires help with dressing and fasteners?
An occupational therapist (OT) can help determine the best ways to help your child build skills required for dressing skills or help modify the task to help a child independently perform self-dressing tasks. In addition, an OT can assess other performance areas, including: attention, motor coordination, visual motor integration (eye hand coordination), fine motor control, self-care skills (self-dressing or self-feeding). After assessing your child, the occupational therapist will provide individualized treatment strategies to improve your child’s ability to independently complete daily routine of dressing skills.
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