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Early Childhood Development: Dressing & Undressing Skills

Early Childhood Development: Dressing & Undressing Skills

There are a wide variety of milestones that a child needs to reach and they start from birth. As the child gets older they will learn more things and they will want to keep learning. From tying a shoelace and taking a bath to making their own bed and whilst most pre-schoolers grow increasingly more independent there are many that don’t.

Development delays are real! A child not reaching one (1) or even two (2) development milestones may very well be nothing but when the Development Delay appears in more than one category then it may be a sign of an underlying physical and/or neurological problems.

Over the next few weeks I will chat about all the areas of development and what a child should be able to do at certain times in his/her development.  It is important to remember that each child is unique and that he/she will develop at their own pace. 

When you go through the checklists please allow for some grace in the area.  Some say a 2 or 3 month leeway should be given and others say 6 months.  We ask for you to use your discretion and look at the development of your child holistically.

Development area: Dressing and Undressing skills for children aged birth to 5 years:

Being able to get dressed is a fundamental component to participation in daily life! In the checklist below we have listed the most common milestones that children reach at 6 month intervals.

Age of the child  
12 – 18 months Can remove own socks Can put loose fitting hat on his/her head Cooperated with dressing by putting are or leg out By 18 months:  places loose fitting hat on head  
2 years Can remove own shoes when laces or fasteners are undone  
2.5 years To put shoes on with assistance Pull down pants, with assistance for fasteners Undresses (jacket, shirt, pats, shoes, socks and underwear) with assistance Able to unbutton a large button Starting to put on “easy clothing” such as a jacket or open-front shirts without zipping or buttoning them Able to zip large zipper  
3 years Able to put on own T-shirt, shoes (although the right and left orientation may still be incorrect) Able to take off “front-opening” clothing Able to pull up loose-fitting pants & shorts Able to dress self with assistance/supervision for fasteners and laces  
3.5 years Able to unzip a jacket and separate the shank Able to button 3 – 5 buttons Able to unbuckled a belt Able to identify front side from back-side of clothes Able to remove shoes completely and able to identify which shoes goes on which foot Able to remove pull-over clothing from both arms and attempts to pull over head
4 – 4.5 years Buttons all front’ opening clothing Able to identify weather appropriate clothing to wear without prompting Able to tightens shoelaces Able to put socks on with appropriate orientation
5 years Dress independently when asked Able to tuck in own shirt

Does not being able to dress-self mean that my child is on the Autism Spectrum?

Not at all!  Factors such as precision grasp, bilateral coordination and motor planning are more often than not the reason/s for a delay in this development area and these can be addressed and rectified by Occupational Therapy and/or Physio Therapy.

Children with autism, Aspergers syndrome or similar disorders will encounter delays in learning how to dress themselves but they will also show delays in other areas such as tooth-brushing, bathing, drying themselves, hair brushing, speech delays, communication difficulties, academic delays and social behaviour.