Over the last few days, I have started to see the signs. Signs that I am starting to know well, and most of all the importance of not missing them. For this can be a either nightmare, or a source of great pride for a child.
As for everything else, Maria Montessori defined a sensitive period for dressing up. And the interest in this is usually sooner then what we would anticipate, thus it is often missed, leading to endless battles over dressing up. (reminds you of anything?) But if taken in time, and most of all, if given the appropriate amount of time and consideration, dressing up can become a fun, and most of all rewarding task for the young child.
Yes, it does demand patience, and a lot of it. Dressing up requires a lot of little fine tuned movement that the child acquire slowly. But rushing the process will only make matters worst...(I'm talking with experience here...), even if letting your child putting on his mittens seems painfully slow. Yes, it is important to let the child do himself, and no, it is not always possible and convenient to wait for the child to have successfully accomplished his task.
What I have started over the years to help out is a dressing basket. It contains piece of clothing that the child is interested in trying to put on by himself. This way, he can practice dressing up at other occasions then when everybody is in a hurry, and it leads to wonderful moments of cooperation between the child and the parent.
This is our current dressing basket:
It contains the things that E is interested in, : shoes, scarfs and mittens, plus one more item that I am suspecting might be of interest soon - a shirt.
I use piece of clothing that are easy to put on, that don't have bells and whistles, and that fits the child, without being too big or too small.
For instance, the pink scarf is one that has no fringe, that is not too long, and so allows E to manipulate easily. Same for the shirt, it is a short sleeve shirt, that is a size bigger to make it easier to put it on, without it being too big for the child to manipulate. Shoes are untied (obviously) and completely opened up to help E learn to fit his feet in in. I would have like to have velcro shoes, but I wanted them to be a little bigger then what he needs, and the only ones I had were laced shoes.
Do I let my child try to dress up on his own when we leave? Yes, when time permits. Which is most of the time. But I plan ahead. I start getting ready way before time to allow plenty of dressing time for my child. Is this always possible? No. But I try to make it happen as much as I can.
Dressing up can be a struggle for everybody. But if it is approched with respect for the child, for his abilities, in the right period of time, it an become a great source of pride and accomplishment, a lot sooner then we'd think.