Dressing Myself

Dressing is a complex skill that needs plenty of practice.

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Dressing Myself

Learning to dress independently is an important life skill.  Not only does it give the child a sense of achievement to master a new skill but also gives the parent precious few minutes first thing in the morning!

By one year your child should be able to help you as you dress them by pushing their arms and legs through items of clothing. By 2 years they should be able to remove an unfastened jacket.

By 2 ½ years they can put on easy clothing such as a jacket or open front shirts without zipping/buttoning.

By the age of 3 they should be able to assist with zipping and unzipping and separating the zip at the bottom of a jacket. Between the ages of 3-4 your child should be able to put their hands through both armholes and down the sleeves in front opening clothing (e.g. jacket). They should also be able to take the same item off completely.

By 4 years old children should be able to get their clothes on and off independently but will not be able to manage fastenings (e.g. zips and buttons) for another year or two.

Click here for general information on dressing.

Click here for general information on putting a jacket on and off.

Click here to access a Dressing Social Story from NHS Lanarkshire.

Order of Dressing

All children need to learn what order to put their clothes on in.  They need to know that their pants go on before their trousers, unless they want to dress up as a super hero!  You can find more information about teaching the order of dressing in the information sheet and download some visual aids for the morning routine.

Downloadable morning routine sequence cards for you to print off and use.

Backward Chaining

When teaching a new skill we often start at the beginning.  This can be challenging for children who are struggling to master a skill.  One way of learning a new task while giving your child a sense of achievement is to use the backward chaining technique.  Backward chaining has been found to be particularly useful when learning self-care skills.  It can also be helpful when teaching younger children and those who have difficulty learning new skills.

So what is backward chaining?  You start by breaking the task down into small steps.  You teach your child the last step first, working backward from the goal.  You complete all of the steps except the last one and have your child practice the final step.  Your child will enjoy the success that comes from completing a task.  Once your child has mastered the last step you complete all of the steps except for the last two.  You teach your child the second from last step and they then complete the last step themselves.  Even more success!  You continue like this until you are teaching the first step and your child is completing all the other steps.

This is a particularly useful technique to use when teaching a child how to get dressed or undressed. This technique can also be helpful for teaching any task that has a number of steps.

For More Information

Managing Zips

Zips are usually the first fastenings that children learn to do.  This is usually on their jacket and they always require help to put the zip together initially.  Children should be able to pull up a zip once the adult has put the pin into the box by the age of 3. 

This short video shows the best way to start teaching your child to zip by placing the item of clothing on a table in front of them first.  Then once they have mastered all the steps they can place the item of clothing on their person and follow the same steps.

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Managing Buttons

Buttons are a hard skill to master as it involves both hands working together but making slightly different movements.  Your child will not have the skills needed to be able to do this until the age of 4.

Start by teaching unbuttoning first as it is easier.  Make sure to start with large buttons and work to smaller ones.  Practicing as part of play can help too, see the Button Programme for ideas.  You can also practice by dressing teddies and dolls.  It is easier to practice with the clothes lying flat on a table so your child can see what they are doing.  Once they have mastered unbuttoning move on to buttoning.  Finally get your child to put the clothes on and undo and do up the buttons this way.

For more information

Doing Up and Undoing Buttons

Buttonholes in a Vertical Direction 

Step by step video with instructions on how to do up and how to undo buttons which run in a vertical (top to bottom) direction.





Buttonholes in a Horizontal Direction

Step by step video with instructions on how to do up and how to undo buttons which run in a horizontal (left to right) direction.

Shoelace Tying

Tying your own shoelaces requires a level of dexterity (using both hands together) most children don't possess until they're between five and seven, so take it slow!

This video shows the One Loop Method that most adults use.

For more information

Another good resource for learning different methods to lace shoes, tie shoelaces and stop shoelaces from coming undone is Ian's Shoelace Site.

Initial Knot

If your child is struggling to create the initial knot then try this alternative technique.

New Method for Shoelaces

This new method is another way to tie your shoelaces.  This method is good for right and left handed people.

Before teaching your child this new modern method we would recommend you take time to practice on your own.  Being confident in the method yourself will reduce any anxiety and confusion when teaching your child.


Double Knot at Start of Shoe Lacing

This technique helps to stop the laces becoming too loose when starting to tie a shoelace.   It involves wrapping the lace round twice instead of once.

Double Knot at End of Shoe Lacing

This technique helps to stop the shoelace knot falling out.  It involves knotting the two loops at the end.

School Tie Tying

The further up the school your child progresses the more likely they are to require to wear a school tie.  During primary school this may only be needed for school photographs or special occasions but by secondary it is normally expected that children wear a school tie everyday.  It is important to be able to tie a tie independently so that changing for P.E. is not an issue. 



Harry Potter Video

Why not have a look at the following Harry Potter themed video which shows your child the basic method for tying a Hogwarts school tie.


Putting on socks is a skill that children can often find challenging particularly for those children who experience difficulties in using both of their hands together to complete a task.

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