Teaching Dressing Skills

There are many activities and methods that can be used to help children struggling to learn dressing skills. Fine motor activities can be used to build the pre-requisite skills needed for managing fastenings. For example:


  • Play with threading activities – threading with cotton reels, beads and big buttons (working towards smaller items and thinner cords).
  • Play posting games, like pennies in a piggy bank, letters in a postbox.
  • Posting pennies through a slit in a square of paper / scraps of material, aiming into a tub.
  • Practise with large buttons (toggle buttons are good) on a soft fabric initially.
  • Encourage practicing buttons by putting toys, games and favourite things in bags with buttons.


  • Play with purses and bags with zips.
  • Put toys, games and favourite things in pencil cases or bags with zips.

The use of dressing skills dolls or dressing skills books means that the skill can be practiced at any time of day which is an advantage as it takes away the time pressure of needing to get dressed quickly.

Dressing tasks can also be taught by backward chaining. Backward chaining is when the task is broken into the component steps and the last step is taught first, this means that the child will always been successful as they will manage to successfully complete the task.

For example the stages for putting on a pair of pants are;

  1. Pick up pants by waistband
  2. Lower pants
  3. Put left leg into the left leg hole
  4. Put right leg into the right leg hole
  5. Pull pants up to knees
  6. Stand and pull pants to waist

The last step is step 6 – standing and pulling pants to the waist as this step is closest to the completion of the task in backward chaining this is the step that is taught first. They are, helped to put the pants on until the last step, which they are encouraged to complete independently. When the child can consistently complete this task, continue assisting a little less each time until they can complete the task entirely on their own. Other items of clothing can be taught in the same way until the child is able to put on each item of clothing.


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