Teachable moments

As parents we often have ideas about how much time it should take for our children to get their clothing on, and they have other ideas that are just as important to them – like how much Lego they can fit into their shoes. This is often much more important to our children then getting dressed. By four years of age, most of our children have mastered the basic skills of dressing themselves, but we must remember that doing it over and over again is often not a very interesting task for most children.Learning to get dressed is an important part of growing up and developing independence and self-esteem.

It is interesting to note that young children learn to undress themselves long before they master the skills necessary to put their clothing on.

We can help children manage their dressing skills by looking for clothes with large buttons, easy glide zippers, hook and loop fasteners, large arm holes, wide sleeves and big stretchy necks. Help out as necessary but we should try to take advantage of our children’s natural urge to imitate – help out with one side and let our children do more to dress the other side. Encourage our children to do as much as they can, applaud their efforts and praise them for the steps they can do as they learn more about dressing independently.

Talk about the clothes: Think of dressing our children as another opportunity to find those “teachable moments.” Expand our children’s vocabulary by describing the articles of clothing. “Your shirt has a square pattern on it,” “The pants that you are wearing match your socks, they are both green in colour.” Or “Your sweater is much softer than your corduroy pants.”

Describe what we are doing: From the first few months of life, use phrases such as “give me your foot,” “over your head,” and “where is your arm?” which can become meaningful cues if we use them each time we dress our children.

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