3–4 Years

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By AMY LEVIN-EP­STEIN

Let your kid dress him­self.

Of­fer op­tions.

Preschool­ers are at a stage where they’re try­ing to as­sert their in­de­pen­dence and test lim­its in dif­fer­ent ways. Get­ting dressed is a great op­por­tu­nity to put both things into prac­tice, so give your child choices about things that don’t mat­ter very much to you. For ex­am­ple, ask, “Would you rather wear your blue sweater or your pur­ple one?” Hav­ing a say will make him less likely to dig in his heels.

Al­low for taste.

Do you hate wool? Can’t stand too-tight tank tops? Your kid will likely have her own likes and dis­likes. Within rea­son, try to be flex­i­ble about her pref­er­ences. It’s okay to avoid things that bug your child; it shows that you re­spect her opin­ion. You can eas­ily fix some of her pet peeves: Turn socks with ir­ri­tat­ing seams in­side out and cut off an­noy­ing shirt tags. (If her sen­si­tiv­i­ties seem more ex­treme, talk to your doc­tor.) And if she wants to wear dresses ev­ery day, well, why not? If you’re wor­ried about her be­ing cold, you can al­ways layer warm leg­gings or a T-shirt un­der­neath.

Take time to prac­tice.

By age 3, most chil­dren can han­dle the ba­sics of get­ting dressed, such as pulling on un­der­wear, elas­tic-waist pants, and a sweat­shirt. (Trick­ier tasks, like thread­ing a zip­per or do­ing but­tons, may come later.) In fact, most kids like to do these things be­cause it makes them feel con­fi­dent and com­pe­tent. Even if it’s slow go­ing, let your kid dress him­self as of­ten as

you can, es­pe­cially on those week­end morn­ings when there’s no need to rush. The more you can give him the power to dress him­self, the less of a strug­gle it will be.

Make it a race.

Preschool­ers don’t feel the same ur­gency to get out the door as you do in the morn­ing, so you can turn dress­ing into a game. Say, “I’ll close my eyes and see how long it takes you to put on your shirt and pants.” Or set a timer for ten min­utes and re­ward your kid with a sticker if she gets down­stairs be­fore the buzzer goes off. You could also give her a poker chip for each good per­for­mance and al­low her to trade them in for a treat when she earns five chips.

Plan ahead.

Kids this age love look­ing at pho­tos of them­selves, so make a step-by-step pic­ture guide of your child’s morn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. It could show him wak­ing up, get­ting dressed, brush­ing his teeth, and eat­ing break­fast. Hang it in his room, where he can fol­low it each day. (The rou­tine chart be­comes the boss in­stead of you!) Have him choose his out­fit the night be­fore, too, so he can avoid wast­ing time de­cid­ing in the morn­ing.

Be chill about coats.

Your kid isn’t cold in­side, so why the heck would she want to put on that bulky, sweaty jacket and cover her per­fectly warm-enough out­fit? Un­less it’s truly freez­ing, don’t make an is­sue out of it; just carry her coat and let her leave the house as is. If she’s cold, she will ask you for it. Then next time, you can gen­tly re­mind her of what hap­pened. Chances are, she’ll wel­come the coat and gloves long be­fore her fin­gers get numb.

Sources: Ari Brown, M.D., Par­ents ad­vi­sor and coau­thor of Tod­dler 411; Jim Fay, coau­thor of Love and Logic Magic for Early Child­hood; Alanna Levine, M.D., a spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics; Jane Nelsen, ED.D., coau­thor of Pos­i­tive Dis­ci­pline for Preschool­ers.

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