Pediatric Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapists Inspiring Play

Dressing Skills for Preschoolers | Purposeful Play Fun

Dressing Skills for Preschoolers | Purposeful Play Fun

The preschool years are an explosion of new complex tasks built on the combination of foundational skills that kiddos acquire in their infant and toddler years. As your littles develop, they are becoming more and more independent, and a huge area of growth in these years is in self-help skills.

These are all tasks that you need to meet your own basic needs; they include anything from brushing your teeth and taking a bath, to getting dressed! 

Time to get dressed!

Getting dressed has tons of opportunities for skill development across many domains. Here are just a few of the skills that your kiddo is developing as they learn how to dress themselves:

  • Postural control and coordination to maintain upright positions, weight shift, and use single leg balance
  • Bilateral coordination and motor planning to orient clothing and complete the sequencing correctly
  • In-hand manipulation skills and visual motor skills to complete fasteners
  • Language skills to follow multi-step directions

Common Developmental Age Ranges for Getting Dressed

Friendly reminder that all kids grow and learn at different speeds, depending on their environment and motivation. Developmental milestones simply give us grownups an idea of what skills are appropriate and what to expect next from little ones. Here are some skills and their associated age ranges we hope you find helpful! (Source: Hand Function in the Child).

We believe that kiddos learn best through playful opportunities with intrinsic motivation and lots of repetition. So, we are here to give you some of our favorite tricks of the trade to help your kiddos become more independent in getting dressed!

Lower Body Dressing

Lower body dressing takes some big muscle coordination and balance. 

Using long beads, Coco practices stepping each foot in and then pulling the beads up and around her trunk. This is a great activity to learn to balance while coordinating arms together. It also has the basic sequencing for lower body dressing. Keep it fun by seeing how many sets of beads your kiddo can pull up!

Using her gripper toes and single leg balance, Coco picks up laundry and lifts to place items into a basket. Again, this activity focuses on the balance needed for more independent lower body dressing.


Is your kiddo still mixing up their left and right when putting on shoes? Try this simple trick! Cut a sticker in half and place it on the instep of each shoe. When the shoes are oriented correctly, the sticker will match up!


Socks can be tricky! To make it easier, have your kiddo sit on the floor instead of a chair. This decreases the postural challenge needed. You can also practice pulling stretchy bracelets or hair scrunchies over feet. This gives those toes some practice with wiggling into openings. For littles who are just learning, we also suggest putting the socks over their toes and then having them finish by pulling the socks over their heels. This technique builds self-esteem and confidence. 


When working on fasteners, such as zippers, we like to have kiddos have the opportunity to practice off of their body first. 

Our friend Ez is demonstrating two different ways to start practicing zipping his jacket. First on the table, where the fabric is stabilized and Ez can focus on connecting and pulling the zipper.

Next, Ez practices with the jacket on the back of a chair. This allows for the upward motion to be rehearsed, but Ez doesn’t have to focus on stabilizing the material on this body.

If your kiddo is having trouble with grasping the small zipper, try an extender on the zipper. You can use a key chair or a fun lanyard like Ms. Kim made!

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