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Getting dressed

  • 1-5 Years
  • 5-11 Years
  • SEND
  • Child development and growing up
Young boy sitting on a bed buttoning up his white polo-shirt.

Learning to get dressed is an important skill for your child to learn. It helps them become independent and gives them a sense of achievement. Every child is different and they all learn in different ways. Some children will pick this skill up quickly and others will need more time and support. 

Teach your child to undress first

It can help to start with teaching your child how to undress first. Learning to undress is much easier. To help with balance, encourage your child to sit down whilst undressing themselves. Loose fitting and elasticated waistbands on clothing is much easier to take off. Once your child can confidently undress themselves, you can then move onto getting dressed.

Tips for getting dressed

  • Having a different design on the front and back of clothing can help your child put it on the right way.
  • Encourage your child to sit down to put on underwear, trousers, skirts socks and shoes.
  • Some children find it difficult to put on a top because they can’t see for a few seconds whilst pulling it over their head. You can try counting or singing with your child to help boost their confidence. Sitting down may also help them.
  • If an item of clothing has a zip, align the zip for your child and then they can pull the zip up.
  • Place a mark inside your child’s shoe to help them identify which shoe to put on which foot.

Does your child find their clothes uncomfy?

If your child finds that their clothes make them itchy you can try:

  • wearing socks inside out
  • removing labels from clothing
  • wearing comfortable underwear, for example, lycra or seamless underwear
  • using unscented detergent

Try backward chaining

Break down each of the steps of getting dressed. Teach your child the final step of the sequence first. This is called backward chaining. It helps give a sense of completion and achievement. When they can successfully complete the final stage by themselves, you can add the step before. Continue this process until the child can complete the whole sequence of getting dressed. Read more about backward chaining.

Have patience

Be patient with your child and try to encourage and praise them as much as possible. Remember that teaching your child to dress themselves takes time. Try not to take over if your child is struggling. It’s a good idea to let them work it out for themselves.

Try to choose a time when your child is relaxed, calm and happy. Use a calm voice and give short simple sentences that your child will understand. You can also gesture and demonstrate to help them understand. Removing background distractions can also help. 

Practice the difficult parts

Encourage your child to practice every day. It can help for your child to practice fastenings whilst they are not wearing the clothing.

To help your child do up buttons, practice first with larger buttons and larger holes. You can also try games such as posting a coin through a slot in a box.

Be prepared

It may help to get their clothing ready the night before. Involving your child in this process can help to keep them motivated. If they have helped choose their clothes the night before, they may be more likely to want to get changed in the morning. 

Having a mirror nearby can help your child to check themselves once they have gotten dressed. Try to keep your child’s drawers and wardrobes organised. You can put labels on things to help find things easily.


Need more specific support for your child?

If your child needs more help or has additional needs, you can visit our specific section for extra support.

Child development and growing up for additional needs

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

Starting school

When your child starts school it is normally expected that they are able to change from their uniform into their PE kit without support. This includes changing their shoes too. 

Read more about getting ready for primary school

Two young primary school girls laughing together in the playground.

Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your child's development, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

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