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To let them dress themselves or not?

Written by Ariana Crisafulli


Posted on May 17 2022


I remember when my daughters were little how much they insisted on dressing themselves. Looking back now, I see photos of them wearing sweatpants under princess dresses, and lime green tights with purple dresses and yellow, sparkly jelly shoes. They looked, in a word, like young children who had dressed themselves. 

The question we're asking ourselves today is: is it okay for children to leave the house looking like young children who have dressed themselves? As we will see, there are actually many benefits to letting your kiddos do just that, as well as plenty of tactics to rein in the crazy.

To let them dress themselves or not?

There is no typical age when young children begin to show interest in dressing themselves. In fact, some toddlers are insistent about it while others seem not to mind. However, children are typically able to dress themselves by age three.

Before toddlers learn to dress themselves, they tend to learn how to undress themselves first. Hats, socks, pants are all fair game. Undressing themselves might actually be a sign that they're ready to start learning how to dress themselves. Other signs are that they help you when you dress them, such as putting their arms up for shirts or dresses or sweaters, or that they put their feet out for socks and shoes. 

Why let children dress themselves?

Builds confidence and independence

When children are allowed to choose their own outfits, it boosts their confidence in their abilities to do daily activities, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. It also lets them see that they are able to do some tasks without mom or dad. Remember that raising kids actually means raising adults. Encouraging the independence they'll eventually need as adults is crucial to their development, and it can start with something as simple as letting them choose their own outfits (within reason).

Encourages individuality and creativity

One of the easiest and most obvious ways anyone can show their individuality is through the clothes they wear. Letting young kids begin to pick out their outfits is a great way to let them explore their creativity in a safe way, and to begin to identify who they are.

Helps with fine and gross motor skills

Getting dressed allows little ones to practice lots of skills that they'll need to strengthen as they grow up, like balance and coordination. Plus, zipping zippers, buttoning buttons, pulling on socks, etc. require a bit of finesse and fine motor skills. They may need some help at first, but practice makes perfect!

How to establish guidelines

Yes, we all want our children to grow up to be confident, beautiful little creative individuals, but we also want them to be able to function in society, which means that some guidelines must be established. Firstly because too much hands-off independence at a young age may unintentionally signal to your children that they don't have someone to turn to. Independence is important, but we also need to grow up learning that we can count on people and that the people who love us care enough to guide us. And secondly because even children need to learn at some point what is appropriate and what is not.

  • To make things easier on everyone, have a special dresser stocked with approved everyday wear that kids can choose from.
  • Switch out the everyday-wear dresser with seasonal options.
  • Make it clear which clothes are only for special occasions.
  • Talk to your kids about what clothes are appropriate to wear in a variety of different situations. 

So there you have it! The answer to 'should they dress themselves or not' is an absolute yes! But within reason of course!

Be sure to check out Tesa Babe's mix and match toddler styles that make it easy to get creative with dressing themselves.