Development FAQ: 18-24 months – Learning

My daughter of 23 months is very headstrong and determined to do things her way.  Every morning she wants to get dressed all by herself, which I know should be encouraged, but she is not yet able to cope without some help. This usually ends in her getting very frustrated and having a tantrum as I finish getting her ready for the day.  How can I make getting dressed easier for her so she is able to manage it on her own?

Learning to dress herself and to manage simple tasks is essential to your daughter’s development.   Skills such as undressing, putting on shoes and clothes and brushing teeth are all to be encouraged.  But it can be frustrating for you both, and takes time and patience.

There are ways of minimising the frustration your daughter experiences when she is unable to get a garment on or off without help.  If you can, choose clothes that are easy for her to put on – skirts and trousers with elastic waistbands, roomy jumpers and t-shirts with wide necks are ideal.  Give her plenty of praise when she gets it right, and this should mean she is more likely to allow you to help her when she gets a little stuck.

Teach your daughter some of the tricks of getting dressed.  Laying out her clothes on the floor may help.  You could suggest that she puts her legs into her trousers whilst sitting down.  Help to acknowledge her bid for independence and leave her alone to get on the clothes with which she is able to cope.   If you know this is going to take some time, try to factor this into your morning routine.

If your daughter is not managing very well, try to avoid saying, “Shall I help you?” You could try to blame the clothes when you see she is struggling, “That silly shirt with all those buttons, it can’t work out where your head should be. Shall we try together to get this silly t shirt to find your head?”

  • Select clothes which are easy for her to put on
  • Allow plenty of time for her to get dressed
  • Give plenty of praise
  • Be patient

In Gina’s book “The Toddler Years”, you will find lots of advice and information about how a child learns to dress herself, and what you can expect of her to do at each stage.