L is very much into doing things all by herself — as many toddlers are. Trying to do things for her often results in a struggle, especially when it’s time to leave the house. Toddlers are striving for independence, and it’s important to set them up for success whenever possible so they can reach that sense of achievement in doing things by themselves. The clothes you buy for them is one way to set them up for success in self-care.
This fall, I went shopping for the next size up in shoes for L. She wasn’t quite ready to move up to that shoe size, but I wanted to make sure that I had the perfect pair ready for her when her feet got big enough. I was looking for a pair of shoes that she could easily put on by herself — this means no laces and nothing with a tongue. I found a simple brown pair (like this!) with one velcro strap and bought them.
Of course, when L’s feet were finally big enough to put the new shoes on a few months ago, I had every intention of teaching her how to put them on. In my experience, it’s easier for young children to put shoes on by themselves when they’re standing and holding onto something while slipping their feet into the shoes, then bending over to fasten the velcro. However, before I could even show L how to do it, she had figured it out for herself. The day after I put them on the sun porch, L ran out there, brought them into the living room, and put them on in exactly the way I would have shown her. They were on the wrong feet, but she did not want to fix them. So we left them like that! L was so proud of herself, and she puts her shoes on by herself every time we leave the house now. It prevents tantrums as we go out the door since she feels like she is in control of herself.
L is now working on putting her jacket on by herself. I’m a fan of the flip method, as I’ve seen it work for many children over the years. To flip a jacket, you lay it down on the floor and stand at its head, so it will appear to be upside down. You bend over and put your arms in the sleeves. Keeping your arms in the sleeves, you lift your arms up over your head and the jacket slips right on! L still needs help connecting the zipper, but then she pulls it right up and puts her gloves on.
Allowing your child to do for herself removes her from a passive position of just having things done for/to her to an active position as a true part of the process of leaving the house, resulting in a child who feels empowered and independent.