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4 min read

A common motto in Montessori is “teach by teaching, not by correcting.”

We show the children how to do it properly through demonstration and modelling but we don’t tell them they’re doing it wrong.

This is why children in Montessori schools are dismissed with shoes on the wrong feet and hats on backwards. The child did it themselves and that’s what matters.

A teacher may ask the child “Do your shoes feel comfortable?” and if they say yes then we might ask something like “trying switching your shoes and see if that feels better. Would you like some help?”

We want children to discover things for themselves and recognizing when your shoes are on the wrong feet or you’re uncomfortable develops body awareness.

Where To Start

It’s easier to get undressed then it is to get dressed so start with undressing.

It’s also important to work on one article of clothing at a time. Let them master removing one article of clothing before moving on to the next. This process is going to take time so be patient.

Dressing: A Step-by-Step Introduction



  1. Children seem to figure out how to pull their socks off pretty early. Draw attention to it when they do it, “you took your sock off!”
  2. You can also help them along by mostly taking it off for them but leaving the last little bit (sock loosely over their toes) so they can finish it.
  3. When you think they’re ready, introduce putting them on. Pull the sock over your child’s foot so that the top is on their heel. Invite them to use their hands to pull it up the rest of the way.

Pulling Pants Off

  1. Invite your child to pull pants down to their knees. 
  2. Invite your child to sit on stool and pull pants down to their ankles.
  3. Assist your child in removing their feet from their pants.

Putting Pants On

  1. Invite your child to sit on stool and show them how to open their pants.
  2. Assist your child in putting their feet into the foot holes of the pants.
  3. Invite your child to pull pants up to their knees.
  4. Invite your child to stand and pull their pants up.

    Note: Show them where to place their hands (one hand in the front, the other in the back) so they can stretch pants over their bottoms.

Taking Shirt Off

  1. Invite your child to hold the bottom of one sleeve with the opposite hand.
  2. Invite your child to pull arm out of sleeve so that it is inside shirt.
  3. Repeat Step 1 and 2 with the opposite sleeve.
  4. Invite your child to use both hands to pull shirt over head.

Putting Shirt On

  1. Assist your child in placing head through neck hole of shirt and pull shirt down over shoulders a little.
  2. Invite your child to put one arm through sleeve.
  3. Invite your child to put second arm through sleeve.
  4. Invite your child to use hands to straighten and smooth out shirt.

Note: Shirts are the trickiest and could take the longest to learn so be patient.

Dressing Closures - Velcro, Zippers, Buttons, and Snaps

In Montessori Classrooms, teachers use Dressing Frames to prepare children for dressing. They offer these frames as early as 16 months, beginning with velcro. 

At home, you can practice with things around the home that have similar closures, i.e. zipper on a backpack, doll clothes with buttons, small coin purse, etc.

We also have the Activity Buckles BoardBaby Stella Learn To Dress Doll or Felt Activity Book, which are fun ways to practice all the closures.

Working Together On Self-Dressing

These initial introductions to dressing should be collaborative. Work with your child to get dressed. Take turns, set them up so they can do parts of each step on their own.

Work with them for as long as they need you and then step back once they begin to show an interest in doing it for themselves.

The Waiting Game

You may only need to do these full presentations a few times because the child will begin to do certain steps on their own. Once they begin initiating self-dressing, follow their lead.

Offer assistance when needed, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” - Dr. Montessori

If a child is struggling to get dressed or undressed, avoid asking questions that can be answered with no, like “can you take off your pants?” and instead say, “it’s time to take off your pants” and wait.

If they start to work on removing their pants then that’s great and if they don’t you follow up with “it’s time to take off your pants. Would you like some help?”

It can take longer for children to process our requests so give them time to take action before immediately trying to help. 

Outdoor Dressing

Click here to read: The One Way To Make The Cold Weather A Little Easier - How To Teach Toddlers To Put on Outerwear

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