Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Promoting Independent Dressing- Montessori Inspired

One of the biggest roadblocks teachers talk about in regard to having daily outdoor play is dressing. 
"It takes forever to get all of the children dressed."
"By the time I get the second one ready, the first one has already started taking off their clothes!"
"It is just way too much work to get everyone ready, for such a short time outside"

IF you are one of "those" teachers, I'm here today to tell you, GET OVER IT! Put your big girl/boy panties/underwear on and stop making excuses! There are so many ways that you can encourage children to become independent about dressing themselves!

Many of the activities/options I am going to share with you today are Montessori inspired. I do not use a full Montessori curriculum, but there are definitely pieces that I integrate into our program every day.
The first, simple activity: How to put on a coat.
First, lay the coat out in front of the child with the hood or the collar at their feet.
Then have the child reach down and put their hands/arms into the arm holes.
With their arms partially in the arm holes, have them raise their arms up above their head. This causes the jacket to flip up. (Most of my children do this as they stand up to give it a little more umph!)
TA DA!!! The jacket is on!
I have had children as young as 18 months master this skill.  Children are always watching an observing. IF you put your jacket on this way, they are much more apt to catch on and become independent about putting their own coats on.

Here is a quick video that shows the technique in action, quick and efficient!
(I apologize that you need to tilt your head, I'm not sure why it turned or how to fix it!)

Another great way to encourage independent dressing is to provide LOTS of practice!

      • Put clothing in a basket for children to play with. Make sure to collect pieces with buttons, snaps, zippers, velcro, et. 
      • Use "real" clothes in your dress up area  and for your baby dolls with various types of closing mechanisms
      • Allow children to "play" with their coats, boots, shoes, snowpants
      • Buy/Make Dressing Frames
      • Try to provide other materials that will be helpful for dressing (I have some puzzles, lacing cards, lacing shoes, etc...)

We made a couple of dressing frames today. 
You can buy them (in most cases they are quite expensive though!)
We started off with some document frames from the Dollar Tree ($1 each)
Remove the glass, the cardboard backing, and the pieces of metal that hold the glass in place.
Needle-nosed pliers work great!
Then you will have a wooden frame that looks like this:
The reasoning behind using a wooden frame is to help stabilize the fabric. Some of the fasteners are much easier to manage when the material is taut. (Some people also cut the clothing so that the frames can easily be stored like puzzles and come out more uniform when complete.)
Then, you will want to attach some clothing/material with at least one type of fastener for children to practice. I like to keep my clothing in tact. I think it is more "real" for the children to see what they are practicing on. Some people prefer to trim the clothing and attach it securely to the frame. I use infant/toddler clothing that I either had as extras,or picked up second hand. There is no need to spend a lot of money to make great dressing frames.  This pair of jeans was less than a dollar at one of our second hand stores. I chose them because they have a zipper, a snap, they came with a belt, and the pockets have velcro!

I use a handy-dandy staple gun to secure the clothing to the frame. 
Make sure you are using staples that are not so long that they shoot through the other side of the frame! Each frame will need 4-6 +/- staples to secure the clothing.
The child can then practice opening and closing all of the fasteners available. 
You can use the same technique for shirts, jackets, etc. I recommend making quite a few different frames for your children to explore with!
These frames have BIG buttons (on the left) and small snaps on the right
Coat zippers are also a great option for a dressing frame!

If you are looking for commercially created items, you can search for dressing frames or dressing vests, and I'm sure you'll find quite a few options!

How do you help promote independent dressing?


Meagan said...

I've been using a modified version of the coat trick since my baby was 5 months old. It's a much easier way to get a coat on a baby than the normal cabbage patch approach. Now, at 8the months, he's still far from independent, but he knows the drill. I guide his hands to the arm holes, but he pushes his arms through without encouragement from me. Then I flip the coat and button him up. When I pull a shirt over his head, he immediately starts trying to push his arms through the sleeves, though he usually can't find them yet without help. And I've noticed he cooperates much more when I try to let him help than when I just "dress" him. It's not like he's dressing himself or anything, but it's amazing how much of the process he's apparently capable of understanding.

Andrea @ No Doubt Learning said...

I've been trying to promote independent dressing too, in fact, I just posted about it last week! The jacket trick is the best - my girls love it! :) Here's my link with labels I made up for their dresser drawers. My oldest daughter ended up writing on laminated index cards with a Sharpie the labels to her own drawers :)

Deb Chitwood said...

Great post, Amy! I always loved the coat technique - and your idea for inexpensive dressing frames is awesome! I love dressing baskets, too. I featured your dressing frame photo and post in my DIY Dressing Frames and Alternatives at

Anonymous said...

The daycare where I used to work had a song to go with that coat trick! It was to the tune of the Hokey Pokey-

"You put your coat right down,
put your feet at the top,
put your arms right in
and you do the flippity flop.
You do the jacket pokey
and you're ready to go out
That's what it's all about!"

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