Putting on his own coat builds a child's confidence.

When to Teach a Child to Put on His Coat

by Joann MacDonald

One of the worst possible experiences you will share with your small child is getting ready to leave the house. Period. Time is short, your tasks are many and your little one just isn’t cooperating. Putting your child’s coat on for him is the quickest option to get you all out that door. But, learning to put on his own coat builds a child’s confidence, independence and sense of achievement. It also means one less task for you to do in the future!

1. Timeline

A child develops the fine motor skills needed to dress himself with supervision at about age 3, asserts MedlinePlus. At about age 4, he can put on clothes independently. These are general guidelines and expert opinions vary. KidsHealth agrees that it is common for kids to dress with a little help at age 3, but suggests they will dress themselves by age 5.

2. Motor Skills

Kids can put on their own coats only when they are exposed to the task repeatedly. That means lots of practice and quite a bit of patience from Mom. As frustrating as it is to watch someone perform a task that you could do easily, letting your child practice in a supportive environment makes progress quicker. Keep in mind that your little one’s physical development also has to be up to the task. He needs the necessary fine and gross motor skills to accomplish the steps.

3. Undressing

Introduce your child to the idea of dressing himself in his toddler years. Teach undressing first. It’s easier than dressing, which takes more coordination and motor skills. Young children begin to be aware of their clothing by pulling off items such as socks, shoes or hats. At about age 2, have him take off his unfastened coat. After he turns 3, see if he can unzip the zipper on his coat by himself. These tasks will help him progress toward putting on his coat by himself.

4. Coat Trick

Once you feel your child is ready to put on his coat by himself, teach him this simple trick that is much-loved by childcare providers. Lay the coat with the opening facing up and the hood or tag near the child’s feet. Have him bend over and put his hands and some of his arms in the sleeve openings. Then, have him flip the coat up over his head while keeping his hands in the sleeves. The coat should be in the right position now. Have him push his arms all the way in. The move requires practice. Try it when you have some free time and not when you are in a frenzy getting ready for an appointment.

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