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9 min read

Getting ready to go anywhere with small children can be challenging.

Now add in cold weather and 1-2 extra layers of clothing and suddenly it feels like you're playing life on hard mode.

The only thing you can really do to make this time of year easier is to guide your child towards independent dressing.

This helps for two reasons:

  1. Most children show a strong interest in independent dressing around two years old. It's easier to work with them and help them reach independence sooner, rather than trying to wrangle them into a jacket they want to put on themselves (but don't know how to).



  2. It builds confidence. There is no sweeter sound than hearing my youngest pull off his shoes and declare "I did it!"


So let's break it down - here's how to teach children to put on their outerwear and at what age.

3 Tips - Teaching Children to Take Off and Put On Their Shoes

Before you start teaching the steps, here's 3 tips to make the process easier:

1. Buy velcro shoes. You can buy slip on shoes, but velcro is easier for a child to start with. Ideally they have a big enough opening for your child to slide their foot in, like the ones in the pic below.

You can introduce shoes with laces and buckles at around five to six, once they have the coordination and fine motor skills to manage these on their own.



2. Work Together. Sit on the ground with your child and take off/put on your shoes together.

This is also a helpful strategy if your child is finding 'creative solutions' for removing their shoes, like kicking them off or stepping on the back of the heal. Your child is likely doing it this way because they’ve seen someone else do it like that.

If you want them to remove their shoes in a different way then you have to 'walk the walk'.

3. Acknowledge your child’s progress. This is different from praise in terms of the words you use. Focus on the progress or effort. Sentences like - “Wow, your fingers are getting so strong from opening the velcro!” or “You put your shoes on all by yourself!” is encouraging.

STEP-BY-STEP: How to Teach Your Child to Take Off (Part 1) and Put on Their Shoes (Part 2)

As adults, we have been putting on our shoes for so long that we basically do it in one fluid motion.

We forget how hard it was to learn this skill.

The Montessori approach breaks the skill down into tiny steps. Not only does this make it easier for our children to understand how to do it but it helps us identify the 'hard parts'. These are the steps where your child might need extra help for little while longer.

So rather than doing everything for them because they can't do one small step, we allow them to do as much as possible, only intervening when necessary.

For instance, your child may be able to get their toes into their shoes independently but struggle to get their heel into the shoe. Rather than just putting on their shoes for them, allow them to put their toes in independently and then help wiggle their heel in or stand up and push their foot in.

Steps For Removing Shoes

You can begin teaching this skill around 18 months (depending on the interest and hand strength of your child):

Step 1 - Open velcro strap
Step 2 - Invite your child to cup the heel of their shoe with one hand
Step 3 - Invite your child to hold the toe of their shoe with the other hand
Step 4 - Invite your child to push the shoe off at the heel
Step 5 - Pull the shoe fully off

For children needing verbal cues, you can say “one hand holds my heel, one hand holds my toes and pull!"

Steps For Putting on Shoes

You can begin teaching this skill around 24 months (depending on the interest and hand strength of your child):

Step 1 - Open velcro (if necessary)
Step 2 - Invite your child to pull up the tongue of the shoe to open it up
Step 3 - Invite your child to slide in their toes
Step 4 - Invite your child to push down their heel into the shoe.
*This can be the hardest step so you can assist with it by helping them stand up and push in their heel. You can also try to show them how to hold the loop on the back of the heel (if there is one on their shoe) to help them pull the shoe on.
Step 5 - Close velcro


 

3 Tips - Teaching Children to Take Off and Put On Their Jacket

Before you start teaching the steps, here's 3 tips to make the process easier:

1. Avoid pullover jackets.
Jackets that fully open up in the front are easier for a child to manage than a pullover. Start with jackets that have velcro and/or zipper closures.  With lots of practice and your guidance, the child will learn to open and close the closures on their jacket independently. 

You can introduce jackets with buttons and toggles at approx. 2.5 - 3 years of age, once they have the coordination and fine motor skills to manage these closures on their own.

2. Work Together. Make time for your child to observe you putting on your jacket.  Be mindful of your movements so that the child can see every step.   

3. Acknowledge your child’s progress. This is different from praise in terms of the words you use. Focus on the progress or effort. Sentences like - “Wow, your balance is getting so sturdy from flipping on your coat!” or “You put your jacket on all by yourself!” -  are encouraging.

STEP-BY-STEP: How to Teach Your Child to Take Off (Part 1) and Put On Their Jacket (Part 2)

Steps For Removing Jacket

You can begin teaching this skill around 18 months (depending on their interest):

Step 1 - Open velcro/zipper

Step 2 - Invite your child to pull the two sides of the jacket away from one another with their hands (to loosen up jacket)

Step 3 - Invite your child pull the sleeve of the jacket over their hand using the opposite hand

Step 4 -  While they continue to hold the bottom of the sleeve, invite your child to pull arm out of sleeve and jacket will fall from shoulder

Step 5 - Invite your child to pull the remaining sleeve over their hand using the opposite hand

Step 6 - Invite your child to pull arm out of sleeve and take jacket fully off

Although the steps above are the "proper" technique for removing your jacket, please note that they may be difficult for a young child to learn. They require advanced coordination and complex movements that cross the midline, skills that are continuing to develop in young children. 

Here is a more simplified version (and one children seem to naturally figure out on their own):

Step 1 - Open velcro/zipper

Step 2 - Invite your child to pull the two sides of the jacket away from one another with their hands (to loosen up jacket)

Step 3 - Invite your child to use both hands to lift the shoulders of the jacket off of their shoulders (or shake their hands out of the bottom of their sleeves so that they're inside the sleeves of the jacket)

Step 4 - Invite your child to hold their arms out behind them and shake their arms 

Step 5 - Invite your child to continue to shake their arms until the jacket comes fully off 

Steps For Putting on Jacket using the Montessori Jacket Flip 

You can begin teaching this skill around 18 months (depending on the interest and coordination).  The most effective way to show your child how to do this is by doing it yourself.  Provide the initial demonstration with your own jacket and then:

Step 1 - Invite your child to find the tag on their jacket
Step 2 - Invite your child to spread their jacket out on the ground or low surface (like a couch) with the tag and armholes closest to them and facing the ceiling 

Montessori jacket flip, coat flip
Step 3 - Invite your child to stand facing the tag 

*If the child is wearing a long sleeved shirt, show them how to hold on to the bottoms of the sleeves on their shirt to avoid getting them bunched up in the jacket
Step 4 - Invite your child to bend down and put their arms through the armholes 
Step 5 - Invite your child to stand and flip the jacket over their head, pushing their arms through the holes in the process

Go here to watch a quick video of the jacket flip in action >>> https://vimeo.com/641364988 

Step 6 - Invite your child to do up their jacket and provide assistance, if needed.

*Typically, children are closer to 3 years of age before they learn how to do up zippers and other fasteners on their jackets.  Learning how to do up zippers, buttons, toggles, etc. on jackets requires A LOT of practice.  The Activity Buckles BoardBusy Book - Felt Activity Book and Baby Stella Learn To Dress Doll are great at-home toys with a variety of fasteners for your child to practice on.  We also have a growing collection of Montessori Dressing Frames for children aged 3 - 6 years. 

3 Tips - Teaching Children to Put On Hats and Mittens

Before you start teaching the steps, here's 3 tips to make the process easier:

1.  Buy hats and mittens that fit properly.  It is tempting to buy outerwear that our children will "grow into" but hats and mittens that are too big can be a source of frustration for a child.  Oversized outerwear can be difficult to put on, keep on and move in.  

Hats and mittens that are too small can be difficult for a child to put on independently.   

2. Work together.  If you want your child to wear hats and mittens outside, it's helpful if they see you wearing them. 

Sit with your child and put on your hats and mittens together.  

3. Acknowledge your child’s progress. This is different from praise in terms of the words you use. Focus on the progress or effort. Sentences like - “Wow, you're going to stay warm outside with your hat over your ears like that” or “You put your mittens on all by yourself!” -  are encouraging.

STEP-BY-STEP: How to Teach Your Child to Put On Hats and Mittens

Steps For Putting on Hat

You can begin teaching this skill between 18 months and 2 years (depending on the interest and hand strength of your child):

Step 1 - Invite your child to put their hands on either side of the hat 

*If there is a clear front and back to the hat, invite the child to lay it on the floor first with opening facing the ceiling and the back of the hat furthest from them
Step 2 - Invite your child to lift the hat over their head while pulling the sides outwards 
Step 3 - Invite your child to pull the hat down over their head and ears

Steps for Putting on Mittens

You can begin teaching this skill around 2 years (depending on the interest and hand strength of your child) but it will continue to be guided by the parent for some time:

Step 1 - Invite your child to lay their mittens on the floor 

Step 2 - Invite your child to place a hand onto a mitten to see if it matches up, i.e. thumb over the thumb.  If it doesn't, invite them to try the other hand.

Step 3 - Once you've matched a hand to a mitten, invite your child to squeeze/bunch the fingers and thumb together on the hand that will go into the mitten

Step 4 - Invite your child to hold the mitten with the opposite hand while pushing the matching hand into the mitten

Step 5 - Invite your child to spread out their fingers and thumb once inside the mitten so that the thumb goes into the thumb hole

*Because the child won't ever be able to see this step, you'll need to guide them and give them lots of time to figure it out.  Show them the movements outside of the mitten first.  For children needed a verbal cue, you could say "Close your fingers and open your fingers!" 

Step 6 - Repeat steps 3 to 5 with the opposite mitten 

You may have noticed that we are focusing on how to put hats and mittens on rather than taking them off.  Children seem to figure out how to remove their hats and mittens all on their own, starting at a young age.  If you are looking for step by step instructions on how to teach your child to remove their hats and mittens, simply demonstrate how pinch the top of the hat or tip of the mitten and pull away from the body.  

Just remember, toddlers need time to practice and move through the steps at their own pace so give yourself some extra time when this skill is new.

This is also a helpful time to introduce the proper place to store your child's shoes. A bench like this one is helpful to store your child's shoes and gives them a place to comfortably put them on.

Here's a couple other tips for organizing your front entryway, if you'd like to read more: https://themontessoriroom.com/blogs/montessori-tips/frustrated-with-the-chaos-of-your-front-entryway

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