ConnectABILITY

Child-Friendly Clothing

We all have our own sense of style. For many young children clothing is a way for them to express themselves. While this is wonderful, it can be a challenge when you are trying to get your child ready for school in the morning. Some children may insist on wearing the same t-shirt day after day. Others may insist on wearing ‘dressy clothing’ to school.

Children who are learning to dress themselves need more time to get ready in the morning. When choosing your child’s outfits for school, think of what he can easily do on his own and what he needs help with. It is also helpful to keep in mind what clothing he might have to remove at school. A shirt with buttons is OK but pants with buttons may be difficult for your child to undo in a hurry when he needs to use the washroom.

Teaching Dressing Skills

When teaching your child dressing skills, make sure you have plenty of time, patience, and, a sense of humour. Most preschool and kindergarten age children need some help with getting dressed whether or not they have special needs. If your child has a physical disability that makes it difficult for him to move, grasp, or pull, you may want to speak to an Occupational Therapist (O.T.). An O.T. can provide you with information on techniques and devices that will make it easier for your child to dress himself.

Here are some questions to help you decide which dressing skills to focus on with your child:

  • Does he know where clothing goes on the body?
  • Can he tell when clothing has been put on backwards or inside out?
  • Does he know how to put on or take off clothing in the right order?
  • Can he take off clothing?
  • Can he put on clothing?
  • Can he attach clothing using Velcro, zippers, or buttons?

In general, children learn how to take off clothing before they learn to put it on. Children who get hot easily or do not like the feel of fabric against their skin, may try removing their socks or a sweater. Most children learn dressing skills that require gross motor movements before ones that require fine motor movements. Pulling pants up or down is easier than zipping them up! When helping your child get dressed, provide him with opportunities to participate and describe your actions. Be sure to emphasize body and clothing words. For example, you can hold out a shirt and say, “Joey, put your arms out. Now, you can put your shirt on. That’s right, one arm at a time!” Provide your child with assistance as needed.

Here are some fun ways to practice dressing skills.

Dolls
Use a doll to show your child where clothing goes on the body and how to put it on. Let him practice dressing and undressing the doll on his own. Keep in mind that buttons and snaps on doll clothing are hard to do because they are so tiny.

Cut-Out People
Cut some people shapes out of felt or cloth. Put a piece Velcro on the chest and at the waist of each person. Next, cut shirts, pants, and skirts out of fabric scraps and put Velcro on each piece of clothing. Your child can practice attaching the clothing to the people using Velcro. This will help him learn where clothing goes on the body and how to use Velcro.

Dress Up
Young children love dressing up in adult clothing and pretending to be ‘grownup’. This is a fun and creative way for your child to practice putting on and taking off clothing. The larger clothing will be easier for him to put on. Just make sure that it is not long enough for him to trip over.

Button Train
Cut a few train shapes out of coloured pieces of felt. Take half of the train shapes and sew a large button onto the back end of each one. Take the rest of the train shapes and make a vertical cut on the front end of each one. The cut should be just wide enough for the button to go through. Show your child how to ‘button’ together the train.

Organizing for Independence

You can involve your child in his dressing routine by grouping together outfits and allowing him to choose one to wear each day. This provides him with a choice and ensures that he is wearing clothing that is suitable for school and the weather. Some parents prefer to lay out an outfit the night before.

If your home has the room, you can set up an area for your child’s outerwear and backpack near the doorway. Put a small mat on the floor for his shoes and attach hooks to the wall for his backpack and coat. Place a picture of a coat and backpack underneath the hooks to remind your child to hang them up. During the winter, you can add a bin for his hat or scarf. Your child may find it easier to identify his belongings and practice dressing himself if he has his own space.

Tips on Choosing Clothing for School

Young children love to explore when they are at school. They often participate in messy activities such as painting or water play. Clothing should be comfortable and allow your child to move. You may want to send a change of clothes with your child to school in case he gets very wet or messy.

Tops

  • Snap buttons are easier to use than regular ones.
  • If buttons are difficult for your child to manipulate, stick to shirts and sweaters that he can pull on.
  • Sweaters or light shirts with a ‘half-zip’ at the neck are easier for your child to pull over his head because they have a large neck hole.

Bottoms

  • Choose pants or skirts with elastic waistbands.
  • Choose pants that seal with Velcro.
  • ‘Cargo’ pants that have several pockets make it easy for your child to carry a communication book or ‘fidget’ toy with him.

Outerwear

  • Tie a colourful ribbon or zipper pull to the zipper on your child’s coat. This will make it easier for him to pull the zipper up and down.
  • Attach mittens to a string and feed it through the arms of your child’s coat. This way he will not lose his mittens.
  • A coat with a hood is useful if your child tends to pull off or forget his hat.
  • A coat that zips all the way up to the chin is good if your child does not like the feeling of a tightly wound scarf against his neck.

Shoes

  • To help your child understand the concepts of left and right, you can put stickers or marks on the inside heels of his shoes and boots. Then he just matches the marks.
  • Shoes that can easily be slipped on or fasten with Velcro instead of laces are practical in the winter when children need to take off their boots when they get to school. You can also buy curly shoelaces that don’t need to be tied.

Sensitivities

  • If your child is sensitive to temperature changes, dress him in layers that he can remove easily. For example, a t-shirt, with a cardigan on top.
  • If your child is sensitive to touch, cut the labels out of his clothing and make sure there are no loose threads. Try to avoid sending him to school in new clothing in case the fabric begins to irritate him.