Child Autonomy - Clothing

Child Autonomy - Clothing

I've talked a fair bit about how toileting and getting ready to become toilet independent are not entirely about nappies and going to the toilet.

When you think about it, there are so many processes that occur for a human to go to the toilet:

Recognise the sensation of needing a wee or poo.
Finding an adult
Communicating to the adult that you need to go.
AND/OR being taken to or getting yourself to the toilet.
Getting undressed.
Getting on to the toilet.
Getting off the toilet.
Flushing the toilet.
Getting re-dressed. 
Getting to the sink.
Washing hands
Drying Hands.

And for me, it's all about what we normalise for our children, so if they spend two-three years being laid down by an adult after they have eliminated in their nappy, being wiped, being re-dressed and then they carry on... that will become their normal. 

That's what I love about the Elimination Communication (EC) process, and when we combine it with Will-Full parenting, we are able to enable our children to learn so many more skills than just 'going to the toilet,' we can empower them to connect to their body, to find effective ways to communicate (even before they're verbal), we can play extra games with them and allow them to develop their own style and persona. 

So where to start?

When your little one is still very little (from as soon as they can reach towards things) offer them two items at a time to choose from such as two t-shirts or two pairs of pants. Make them obviously different such as a black short sleeved top and a green long sleeved top. Also consider this a time to play around with language, and look at using phrases such as: 

"Would you like the green one or black one?"
"Would you like to wear the long sleeved one or the short sleeved one?"
"Would you like to wear the green, long sleeved one or the black, short sleeved one?"
"I have a green shirt in my left hand, I have a black shirt in my right hand, which one would you like to wear today?"

Every time we use descriptions in our sentences we are also exposing our children to language. 

Once they are mobile you can create a Montessori inspired wardrobe which will  allow them to access and choose their clothing when they want to.

Yes, this most likely entail a few weeks or months of them experimenting by taking ALL of the clothing down and making piles with it. 

Stay gentle, take time together to make a game of it, show them how to use the coat hangers, how to put the clothing back on the rail. 

You can even sit with them and show them the Marie Kondo fold1, kids are great at it, they love it and it supports them to connect with their clothing. 

As they get older you can discus with them things like. 
"I see you have taken clothes out of your wardrobe and put them on the floor, is it time that we have a look through and see if there are any that you don't enjoy any more that we can gift to other children who might like or need them?"

This whole process supports the gross and fine motor skills as well as empathy and the ability for your child to explore what their style is, what makes them feel good and the feeling of joy that gifting will-fully can bring. 

Here's our first attempt inspired by our lovely friend Naomi and her creation for her daughter
Second attempt I put hooks and a dowel underneath a shelf, this worked better for us as LO likes to take the coat hangers off/pull on them.
At our last house the wardrobe became a features in her play space.


Getting dressed

From birth give your little one the chance to use their bodies as best they can instead of forcing them through clothing.

Put their head in the t-shirt, playing peek-a-boo.

Get them to "tickle" your fingers when putting their "right hand" and "left hand" through the sleeves.

Play "where are your toes" when getting their feet through the leg holes.

Stand up changes

Getting them to hold on to something (wall or you) get them to "step in with" their "left foot," "step in with" their "right foot," as well as "step out." Encourage them to "pull up" or "push down" their pants/shorts/skirt etc.

Give them plenty of time to attempt it themselves, remember it takes them a lot longer to work through these new processes that it would for us. 

As they get a bit older they might find it easier to put their arms in first and pull the top on to themselves. Have a look at the adorable Montessori Coat Flip, because damn it's cute

All of these games are great when combined with language exposure, to learn left and right, to support balance, to build self confidence, develop autonomy and to reduce many many battles that can potentially come up. 

If you're struggling with battles around clothing, book in a call with me and let's find ways, together, to soften your relationship with your child.  


1 - I am not affiliated with Marie Kondo, but she's fantastic and it's a great 'game' to play with kids and supports respect and connection to their clothes, their wardrobe and inspires self-guided space tidying. 

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