Learning to dress is one of those skills where parents can play an important part in helping their child. It takes several years of practice before children will crack dressing and be fairly fast at it. Being able to cope with dressing is important for children who are due to start school and it is also an aspect of learning and development with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Unfortunately, the importance of children learning to dress is not always valued by some parents who may not realise just how important it is for children to master. They may also not be aware of some of the wider benefits that being able to dress gives a child, such as balance, co-ordination and motor movements.
There are several things that early years settings can do to help parents support their children's dressing skills at home.
It can be helpful for a child's key person to talk to parents about what the age/stage expectations are when it comes to children's dressing. Some parents may not know at what age they can expect their child to cope with different features of dressing.
Many parents will not know, for example, that children usually master undressing before they learn to dress or that it is normal for children to put two limbs down a trouser leg.
Not knowing the usual milestones or what would be appropriate for their child can mean that some parents can become irritated by the slowness of their child and take over, while other parents may feel that their child is still too much of a baby to start.
TIPS OF THE TRADE
We can also help parents by showing them some of the tricks of the trade. Things such as encouraging children to sit down when putting on coats or jumpers so that they are more stable can help, or showing the way an adult might do one button at the top and one in the middle of the garment for a child so it does not gape open.
You can also show parents how to do the 'magic coat' routine, where the coat is spread out on the floor with the lining uppermost, but with the hem of the coat facing away from the child. The child can then pop their arms into the coat and then flip it over their head.
BUILDING CHILDREN'S SKILL LEVEL
In some ways, it can be worth early years settings working on children's skill level in the setting so that parents can build on what their children have learned. For example, this might be working with a child to teach them lift up the tongue in their shoe before sliding their foot in.
Using dressing as a learning opportunity in the setting can work well because one of the barriers for parents is often time.
Dressing often happens when either the parents are in a rush to get out of the house or the child is tired at the end of the day.
Helping the parents know about what their child can do and talking to them about how best to continue it at home should be the role of the key person.
It is worth noting these conversations if you work with the EYFS because there is an expectation that you will help parents support children's learning at home.
Finally, there are many ways in which the topic of dressing and clothing can be used to support children's learning. You might like, for instance, to create some sequencing cards so that children can explore the sequence by which they get dressed. Or children could sort clothes into different sizes and for different people.
We can explore with them how it feels to have favourite clothes or to have to wear something that we do not like.
Alternatively, you could link clothing to festivals and moments of importance in children's lives, such as weddings or religious holidays.
There are also some wonderful picture books around that we can share with children about dressing. Look out for Archie's Holiday by Domenica More Gordon, about a dog trying to take too many clothes on holiday, and also No Roses for Harry by Gene Zion, about a dog having to wear a coat he dislikes.