Tips for self-dressing toddlers
As a fulltime working mum with two toddlers, some mornings can be a nightmare getting out of the house. Lately my 2 and 3-year-old have decided that they want to play dress ups every morning and want to wear formal dresses or “pretty girls dresses” or “princess dresses” as Khloe would call it. Naturally as a mother I want them to wear something comfortable and practical for day-care, but they wantto go for sparkle, glitz and glamour.
Believe it or not, this is actually good news. This is a sign my toddlers are growing up. “Preschoolers are also at a stage where they’re trying to assert their independence and test limits,” says Alanna Levine, M.D., a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Getting dressed provides an opportunity to put both things into practice.”
That doesn’t mean every morning has to be a disaster though. Here are some recommendations that might help with your self-dressing toddlers:
Start with giving options
“Would you rather wear your white girls dress or your bluecotton dress?” Having a say will make them less likely to rebel. Giving options this way will not only make them feel empowered, but it automatically cancels out the other options in their wardrobe. Try to find creative ways that mean your child has less reason to hear the words no, the word no usually gets a rebellious reaction from toddlers because they hear it so often.
Respect their opinion
Do you hate spandex? Hate jumpsuits or sequins rubbing on your skin?It is very likely that your child has their own preferences as well. Try to be respectful and mindful of that. Allowing them to have their own preferences in general also means you are teaching them to develop and understand who they are as an individual. This is an important lesson. If your daughter wants to wear dresses every day, why not? Allow her to pick more comfortable dresses when shopping and let her be involved with the process. If it’s cold, put leggings on and a cardigan. You will also find when you respect their opinion, they start to respect yours more as well. Think back to when you were younger, one thing that makes us rebel the most is feeling unheard and unequal. It is easier working with them to a combination of yours and there liking rather then against them.
Let them try to do it themselves
Most kids like to try and do things for themselves, it gives them a sense of accomplishment. “It makes them feel confident and competent,” says Dr. Levine. Even if it slows you down, it is worth it in the end and becomes a win- win situation when they dress themselves. “The more you can give her the power to dress herself, the less of a struggle it will be,” says Dr. Levine. Khloe loves it when I allow her to try and put her clothes on, she particularly loves putting her own socks on. She also asks to zip or unzip any dresses I wear. Short term pain, long term gain! Be patient and let them give it a go themselves.
Make it fun and let siblings help each other
When I am dressing one of my kids the other is trying to also help by bringing the shoes or putting a sock on. Giving them tasks and making them feel like they are part of the routine in a fun way makes them look forward to getting dressed as opposed to dreading it. I give the girls stickers for any piece of clothing they can put on properly. Doing things as a team and making it fun is like customizing a situation to speak in a child’s language. I also pick 3 dresses and let my eldest pick what I wear to work. If they really want to wear a party dress, I try to quickly find a photo in my phone of when they wore the party dress and explain that the environment is a party and we can’t wear a party dress to day-care. Seeing themselves in the party dress somehow gives them satisfaction and then moves the attention away from the dress and they start to scroll through pictures as I dress them. Distraction is always the best way to change the topic on the harder mornings. If you struggle to make it fun, distract them with something fun to give you the chance to dress them.
Don’t put fancy dress or party dresses in reach
If your child opens the wardrobe and sees glitter, princess and formal dresses then naturally they are going to be drawn to them. If you put those dresses or items, you don’t want them to wear on the day to day in another location (like in your cupboard or high up where they can’t see) then chances are high they won’t ask to wear them. What ever is stored closest to there reach and sight should be the items you want them to wear the most. That way, if they ask to wear them it’s no so much of a disaster.
The truth is, if I could look like a princess in a party dress every day, I wouldn’t say no either. Spend time on a weekend to play dress ups and enjoy that time with your kids. Distinguish between dress up play time and everyday wear. If toddlers have a time to look forward to when they know they will have the chance to play and look pretty, they will also be less likely to want to do it every day.
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Owner and founder of KoKo Adora