Teaching a Child How to Dress and Undress Themselves

By 12 months, your child should be able to pull shoes off, assist with putting shirt on, and take hat on/off.

By 22 months, your child should be able to zip and unzip a large zipper.

By 24 months, your child should be able to remove an unfastened shirt.

By 26 months, your child should be able to unbutton large buttons and pull down pants with assistance.

By 28 months, your child should be able to pull pants up with assistance.

By 30 months, your child should be able to put shoes on with little assistance.

By 3 years, your child should be able to dress/undress upper body with supervision, without fasteners, buttons large front buttons, and independently pull down pants.

By 3 years 6 months, your child should be able to button 3-4 buttons in a series, zip/unzip, and separate jacket, put on mittens, and snap clothing in front.

By 4 years, your child should be able to pull up pants, put socks on correctly, and put shirt on correctly.

By 5 years, your child should begin tying knots in preparation for shoe tying.

By 6, your child should be able to tie his/her shoes independently.

Make teaching self-care fun! Melissa and Doug make a puzzle with basic life skills to work on buttons, zippers, and tying knots that children love to use. Look for clothes at home or at yard sales that have large buttons and zippers for your kiddos to practice on as well. To model the task, sit behind the child with your hands in front of him/her while holding the practice material. Also, practice closures in front of your child first, rather than on the body. Once that is mastered, practice with the shirt or pants on. It is also easier to start buttoning buttons at the bottom rather than the top when on self.

To practice the skill of buttoning, you can also use a piggy bank or any toy where you have to put round objects in slots. Even lacing cards or activities where you have to pull/push will help advance this skill.

Undressing is usually easier than dressing so work on undressing skills first. Play dress up with bigger clothes. Play dressing games, such as doing an obstacle course or using picture cards.

When working on taking shoes/socks off, make sure your child is able to reach his/her feet and maintain a stable position. If s/he is having difficulty with this, sit on the last step at the bottom of a stair case and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Master taking off socks and shoes first before moving to putting shoes and socks on. Shoes and socks that are slightly larger for a child will be easier to learn.

Once a child is able to take shoes on/off independently, s/he is able to begin learning to tie knots. It may be fun to practice on shoe tying boards/shoes such as this Melissa and Doug activity. You can also make your own with different colored laces to practice.

These are the 7 steps of tying shoes:

  1. Make an X
  2. Go through the first bunny hole.
  3. Tie the knot tight.
  4. Make 1 bunny ear.
  5. Wrap the other string around the ear.
  6. Go through the second bunny hole.
  7. Tie it tight.







Artwork reproduced with permission of Melissa & Doug.

If your child is having trouble learning to dress or undress themselves, reach out to an Occupational Therapist at ABC Pediatric Therapy Network for help.  Visit our website at https://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com for more developmental tips to help your child.  Mastering skills like shoe tying will help improve your child’s self esteem and confidence.

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Developmental Checklist

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