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Build independence by practicing undressing skills

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At around 18 months, you’ll notice that your child will begin to get involved in dressing and undressing themselves. Perhaps they lift their arms up when you’re about to put their shirt on or they help you pull down their pants to get undressed. These are sure signs that your child is ready to learn some simple self-dressing skills! 

Clothing considerations for self-dressing

  1. 1. Looser fit is easier. Find shirts with wider neck holes so that their heads don’t get stuck. If needed, you can also buy one size up. 
  2. 2. Elastic waist shorts and pants without buttons are the way to go for beginners. 
  3. 3. When the weather gets colder, look for jackets or cardigans with large, loose buttons.
  4. 4. Buy shirts with an image or some sort of indicator on the front so your child can tell which side is front and back. 
  5. 5. Make sure the clothes you offer your child are comfortable!

Once you have some loose and comfortable clothing for your child, you can begin to teach them how to undress. Undressing is a lot easier than getting dressed, so always start with this first. We spoke to an occupational therapist and here are some tips for getting undressed. 

Removing shorts

  1. 1. Start standing.
  2. 2. Ask your child to put their thumbs on the inside of the waistband on either side of the shorts. 
  3. 3. Have them pull the shorts down around their ankles. 
  4. 4. Then, have them sit to remove the shorts the rest of the way. 
  5. 5. This technique also works for pants.

 

Removing shirt 

  1. 1. Ask your child to use their dominant hand to grab the opposite sleeve and have them pull their hand through the sleeve.
  2. 2. Use the dominant hand to lift the opposite side of the shirt over their head.
  3. 3. Remove the rest of the shirt.
  4. 4. This technique also works for long sleeve shirts.
  5. 5. (Parents can guide them first to show them how it’s done) 

 

Why teach your child these skills? Not only is self-dressing a life skill, it also helps your child build their sense of independence. At this age, building independence is an important part of dealing with big emotions. Your child may want to do a lot of things on their own but are restricted by rules, which often results in frustration. By letting them exercise their independence, even in little ways, it can help manage some of these feelings. 

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