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MCSA Lockdown Tip 74

MCSA Lockdown Tip 74

Lockdown Day 74 – Dressing

Activities of Everyday Living

Today’s post follows on from the independence tip posted yesterday (#73) in preparation for the children going back to school.

One of the key everyday living skills that children need to acquire are the many skills required to get dressed (and undressed).

How often does it happen that it is time to leave for school, the shops, or on a friend visit and you are running late. Consider what happens when jackets or shoes have to be put on? Nine times out of ten, the adults decide that it will be quicker to dress their child rather than having to watch little fingers slowly labouring over the task. Consider whether this is in fact helping, or hindering the child’s development!

Home is an ideal place to practice becoming an independent dresser and undresser. With approximately four weeks to go prior to the re-opening of preschools, this is a good opportunity (when there is no rush to get out of the door at any time of the day) to give the child time to practice these skills.

Being able to go to the bathroom at school unassisted, or to independently get changed for sports or ballet will build the child’s confidence and self-esteem. As these early skills are mastered, children see themselves as capable, and will be more inclined to take on new challenges that come their way.

For each of the following learning opportunities, start by looking to see what your child can do already, and build on this. You do not have to turn each of these events into a formal lesson. Rather get dressed alongside the child as children often learn best by simply enjoying being with you and chatting whilst they learn.


Every morning, encourage the child to get out of her/his pyjamas by showing the child how to best remove the items of clothing. If the items are to be worn again, encourage the child to fold them up and put them away. If they are to go into the wash, ask the child to place them straight into the wash basket.

Getting dressed into the day’s clothes will take some time, humour and patience!

Start with the UNDERWEAR. Make the child aware that underwear has a front and a back. Teach the child how to identify which is which. Draw the child’s attention to the fact that underwear has a large hole at the top (to accommodate the body) and two smaller holes (one for each leg). Lots of maths, spatial and critical thinking skill opportunities! Ask the child to sit with her/his legs extended and lay the underpants on top of the legs so that the child can see that each leg needs to fit into its respective hole. Guide the child to hold the underpants at the waist and place one foot at a time into each hole. Then ask the child to stand and to pull up the underpants.

The same procedure can be repeated if the child is wearing SHORTS or TROUSERS. You will also need to consider the fastening mechanism of these pants and allow the child practice in fastening and unfastening these. Some children like to wear a BELT – this requires some fairly complex finger dexterity to manage on one’s own.

T-SHIRTS or DRESSES can be a little more tricky as they have to be lifted over one’s head, and in the process seem to have a 100% chance of being turned inside-out and back-to-front! You will need to work out the best way to approach this for your child. Once you have decided on one way, stick to that way so that practice can remain consistent.

BUTTON-UP SHIRTS or DRESSES come with their own challenges as the buttons do not only have to be aligned with the button holes, but the child will also need to consider lining up the two sides of the garment!

CARDIGANS or ZIPPED JERSEYS may also need some further practice. These are often taken on and off numerous times during the day.

With the advent of winter, children will now most likely start to wear SOCKS and various types of SHOES – sneakers, boots or wellies. Each of these skills need to be practiced – to be put on AND taken off.


Watching children learn to dress themselves can be a traumatic event for parents! Remember to allow the children the time to figure things out. Do not assume that the child is ‘struggling’ if s/he does not immediately get it right. Wait until you are asked for help! This is the adult’s most difficult task!

Also – please try and refrain from the urge to whip the child’s inside-out and back-to-front T-Shirt straight off and putting it back on again ‘correctly’ when the child appears from her/his bedroom having finally managed to get dressed all on her/his own! All this does is tell the child that her/his efforts were not good enough. It does not matter if s/he walks around for a couple of hours back-to-front and inside-out! At some point s/he will realise this, and try and correct it.

Shoes also have an almost 100% chance of ending up on the wrong foot, despite one’s assumption that the odds would be 50/50! Thankfully shoes also have an inbuilt control of error called discomfort that will alert the child to the fact that they do not quite ‘feel right’ and hence will prompt the child to have another go at finding the right foot for the right shoe!

Know that your efforts now will set the child up for independence, self-esteem and success later. The more relaxed you are about letting the children learn to dress and undress themselves unaided now, the easier it will be when school starts again.


Find all of our lockdown tips here –