At What Age Should a Child Be Able to Dress Themselves?

Updated on May 24, 2011
K.M. asks from Parker, CO
21 answers

Hi there! So I have a 3 1/2 year old son with SPD and with that has horrible motor planning issues. Some things that he should be doing are obvious to me, like he shoud be able to climb a small ladder at the playground, but some things I am never sure if it is his age or his motor planning problems. So what age did your kids dress themselves? We have been working on putting pants and underwear on all by himself and with A LOT of practice he is definitely getting better and can do it by himself with some direction in about 2 minutes, so that is good. We havent even attempted at trying to put a shirt on yet, the thought makes me cringe! LOL! Any input would be great! Thanks so much Mamas!

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answers from Albuquerque on

My kids go through phases. At 6 and 4, we go through stretches of time where they do a great job on their own, then it switches up and I have to pick out everything from their underwear on out.

Then again, I'm 37 and my mother still thinks I don't know how to dress myself properly. Maybe it's genetic. :)

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answers from Dallas on

My baby is 4 and has been able to dress herself since probably 2.5. Although some days that kid acts like she can't even put socks on!

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answers from Fort Collins on

My daughter was getting herself dressed (sometimes backward or inside out) at 2 years old, but my son had no desire to dress himself until he was 3 or more. He could, but he had no desire to. My son is now 5 and still gets stuck in a shirt occasionally... come to think of it so have I = )

I think your son sounds actually pretty on track to me.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

My kids learned and practiced in stages.

For example, I would orient the short properly and pull it over his head -- and then tell him "put your arms in". A next step might be laying in out on the bed so he could pull it over his head and do the arms...

Off is usually easier than on, so you might want ot encourage that. "Take your pants off, so we can put your jammies on."

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answers from Honolulu on

Don't worry.
Don't feel in a rush about it.
He is a boy and also has SPD etc.
Just practice.
It will come.
He will be fine.

My son is 4, he can dress himself, but still, boys can be later in "fine" motor skills.

Differentiate between 'gross' motor and 'fine' motor skills.
Most kids are better at one than the other.

At that age, I still helped my daughter. My son too.
No biggie.

Just practice.

Just make sure you tell him the 'tag' goes on the back.
So they know which side is front and which is back.

And, per this age and toileting... just practice with him about 'how' to pull up and down his pants/underwear.
Use clothing with ELASTIC waistbands.
Much easier.... and more manageable for young children.

Your son is young.
I wouldn't fret over it per him dressing himself or not fully, yet.

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answers from Kansas City on

ugh....i hate this battle. my son is 4 and has been able to do it since probably 3 or 3 1/ whether he wants to is another matter. it used to drive me batty because i figure, he CAN do it, he NEEDS to do it. but then i figured, he knows how, i taught him, that's my job. just because he CAN do something, does that mean he necessarily HAS to? so i do help him if we are rushed or he's being a booger. plus.....he's my little bug...if he's going from point A to point B he will find fifty flowers to sniff in between lol. so a lot of times i do help him. then there are rough mornings when he stayed up too late fighting sleep, or doesn't feel great, and then it's just better if i help. but yes, he is completely capable of doing it. just depends on how badly he wants to :)

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answers from Redding on

I would say by age four at the latest.

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answers from St. Louis on

My oldest is 23, he still has problems. :p

My younger son has a fair few issues, aside from the stupid button fly jeans his dad bought him, he has been able to dress himself since around six and a half.

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answers from New York on

my stepson is 3.5 and can put on his pants and socks himself. he can sometimes get his shoes on too. he still needs some help with shirts. he gets his head in and one arm lol. some days he pretends he can't do any of it at all. we just praise him when he does do it and when he tries, even if he is unsuccessful. every kid is different though. he's doing fine, just keep encouraging him and making him feel proud when he does it and he'll learn it all when he is ready.



answers from Washington DC on

All my other older children got dressed by themselves at about 3.5 / 4... BUT, my 2 year old gets dressed very well for herself, and in record-fast speeds. This includes getting undressed and dressed with socks and shoes BY HERSELF in less than a min. It is pretty awesome and convenient that the youngest can do this!



answers from Salt Lake City on

My son is 4.5 and is just getting to putting his shirt on. He can't button or zip pants, but that's OK, since he insists on "soft pants," like sweats that are unconstructed with elastic waistbands. Those help him for going potty. If redressing after potty is difficult for your son and he is mostly home, you could probably uncomplicate things by using boxers or skipping underwear altogether (shock, I know).

Some shoes are easier than others, and may not need socks (Crocs are great if they aren't doing a lot of walking).

This is not something I have really focused on with any of my kids, to be honest. I think they all were 4.5 when they started on their own. They will ususally only motivate themselves to dress when they have had an accident. It doesn't happen very often, but when my son comes up with a different outfit on, I know I should probably go down and find a pair of peed-in bottoms. Good luck!!



answers from Washington DC on

Hmm, is the question when will they do it or when can they do it? 2 very different questions... We found out my son could dress himself at his 3 yo well child visit, albeit the clothes went on backward (he was in a crying fit and determined not to be there so his solution was to get himself dressed so he could leave). Has he done it himself since? Nope, not unless he wants to go somewhere and we aren't cooperating, and he is almost 5. Has no interest in doing it. Claims he is unable to do it. My daughter was picking out her own outfits and dressing herself since age 2. I think boys are just either more stubborn or don't care. Oh- and the way I taught my daughter to put on her pants was that the tags go in the back and she had to drive each leg into a separate tunnel. Shirt was head in the big hole, each arm in a separate tunnel, and tag in back. We put the coat on the floor upside down with tag at the feet and she would stick her arms in and flip it over her head.



answers from Detroit on

my daughter will be 4 in july. she can do all of her clothes, but does better if i lay them out for her. she has a hard time taking shirts off. she can do it if she's motivated, but has a hard time if it's tight. my twin nephews are 4 in june and they can get dressed, but have a little harder of a time if the clothes are not laid out in the right position to get them on easily.



answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter is 3.5 and she can do it on a good day. :) By that I mean when she wants to.....most times I get her ready because we have somewhere to be (daycare/work, church, etc.). She has a bit of trouble sometimes with shirts and the shoes sometimes get on the wrong feet, but she's getting better each time she tries.

I think your son is doing just fine....:)



answers from Minneapolis on

The age difference between "can" and "will" was large with my daughter! Lucky for her she is my only one, so I just helped in the mornings, even though I knew she was capable. It doesn't take that long to do and I just considered it bonding time.


answers from Dayton on

All I can tell you is my experience and hopefully it will take the pressure off you: DD is 5.5 and still has to have help w/ buttons, zippers on pants and pants buttons/snaps.
Also if something is turned inside out she needs me to help fix it.

I don't remember exactly when she started getting herself dressed but I can tell you she was closer to 4.5-no way at 3.5.

Hope that helps!



answers from Pocatello on

My daughters both started dressing themselves around 2 years old, but they still needed help with certain clothes and buttons until they were about 4 or 5. There are some ways that you can help your son learn to dress himself, but don't try to rush or force the process; you don't want to make him feel too discouraged to try or make it into a power struggle between you. First off, try playing dress up more. Get some old clothes from your closet or a thrift store that are easy to put on and take off like vests, hats, scarves, slippers, etc. For a boy, some ties and superhero capes would be good too. Boys can enjoy playing dress up as much as girls do, but sometimes parents forget that. My kid's preschool classes always had boys in the dress up area having a blast! Getting dressed in a cape and hat and fuzzy slippers will seem a lot more fun to your son than putting on his everyday clothes! When he does need to put on his "real" outfit for the day, try to help him dress rather than doing it all for him. For instance, have him pick up his shirt and try to put his head through it, then you help guide his arms into the sleeves. Have him pull on his own pants, and you just help to pull them all the way up or just do the zipper and button up. The point is to let him do as much as he is capable of and over time you do less and less while he takes over more of the efforts. There are lots of toys out there that have buttons, snaps, zippers, and ties to teach children how to use such items. Or you can make your own if you are crafty enough (I'm not!) I'm sure you can find instructions to make one online somewhere. Good luck!


answers from Seattle on

Well..every kid is going to be different. My six year old started doing it when he was like three.

My middle four and very lazy...He can do it all himself...but I still find myself doing it for him some times! He can be a piece of work...and when I am in a hurry, I dont have time to wait for him!

My three year old though, has been dressing himself for the most part since he was one and a half...He needed assistance with shirt and shoes... Everything else he figured out!! It was nice because he had speech delay, and this gave me a little confidence that the speech delay was not going to lead into finding out it is due to mild autism... My pedi had reassured me that since he was getting all this down I had better hope...

So...round it up..every kid is gonna have a different ''marker'' for right with this. I would start laying clothes out in front of him...and see what happens. You can do it just for practice. Do say ..''hey here is your clothes'' but leave it at that and watch how he does. See if he can get it without the cues. That way he can learn what dressing is without having you there to guide so much. This is how I got my youngest to really get into dressing. Good for helping out motor skills too. I found he was more confident with alot of other stuff I thought he would have trouble with.

Good luck mama!! He will get it down good soon:)



answers from Honolulu on

My daughter: 2 years old, my son is 3 and can't even seem to get his underwear on without a meltdown....



answers from Denver on

my two year old has been dressing herself for at least 6 months - but she's kinda ahead of the curve. My son was probably 3 when I could reliably trust him to dress himself



answers from Daytona Beach on

mine could do everythign but socks and shoes by 2. but they wouldn't :). i still have to get them dressed sometimes and they are 7&4.

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