How to Make Dressing your Toddler Easier

Trying to dress a toddler can be hard work. They tend to dislike wearing clothes anyway; add to that their desire to get on with the important things, like playing and exploring their world, getting dressed can become a battleground, leaving everyone stressed. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks to help when it comes to getting clothes onto wriggling toddlers.

The first thing to consider is what clothes are being used. Everyone loves how a little one looks in a cute suit or flouncy frock, but these pictures of loveliness will be stained, torn and destroyed in minutes by an active toddler. Not only are these clothes usually difficult to put on, but toddlers will feel restricted and uncomfortable, usually, leaving them grumpy and uncooperative. Clothes at this age should be unfussy, hard-wearing and practical; save the frills and ruffles for big occasions only.

Things to avoid are buttons – they tend to be tiny and fiddly – laces, hooks and eyes and ribbons. Velcro is a blessing when it comes to clothes. Yes, toddlers can get Velcro closures open easily, but it’s equally true that parents can get them back on in a second. Aim for poppers, zips – but avoid the tiny ones with fiddly pulls which are impossible to grasp – and clothing with no fasteners at all.

Check clothes regularly. Toddlers grow like weeds and this causes problems like necks which are too tight; same for arms. Buttoned or zippered waistbands can get too tight even though the leg length is still fine. Aim for elasticated waists; this allows for ease of putting on, taking down when potty training and even gives toddlers a head start on getting dressed by themselves. Slip-on or elasticated shoes are the way forward for ease of dressing.

If getting dressed has become a war zone, it is time to make a few changes which alter the situation. Try giving a choice. Pick two sets of clothes, lay them on the bed and allow the toddler to choose which they want to wear. Putting them in control takes away the “I am mum and you will do as I say” element which can feel intimidating to a child, and can be frustrating for a parent when the child does not cooperate.

Alternatively, turn getting dressed into a game. There are a couple of games to play here, starting with treasure hunt. Tell the child they have to find the clothes they are going to wear – make sure these are not hard to find and not scattered too widely as the former causes frustration and the latter takes too much time – and promise them they can choose breakfast (within reason, of course) if they find all their clothes and let the adult help them dress – or dress themselves if capable.

Another way to play dress up is to do it together. Make a game of getting ready in the morning. Wash faces and brush teeth together and then get dressed at the same time – for example “Mum is going to but her trousers on, can you do it too?” Toddlers want to copy the behaviour they see in adults so copying how they get dressed can really make the situation a lot simpler.

Sometimes, when a child isn’t going out, it can help to say “Ok, let’s have a lazy day. We won’t get dressed, but we will tomorrow.” Firstly, stick to the plan; don’t pass again the next day. Keeping your word is an vital part of parenting. Using this approach will sometimes take the pressure out of getting dressed and the child will either get dressed by themselves, when they are ready, or will come and ask for help. Don’t make a fuss about this, if it happens; just accept it, help and carry on with the day.

The most important thing about getting a toddler dressed is to understand that it will happen. There will be days when it is a nightmare, but those times will pass, often down to the pride a child feels when they learn to do these things for themselves.