Let your kid dress himself.
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.
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.