How do children actually learn to dress themselves? If you think about it, how do we learn anything? We are taught. The people around us model for us the way to do something; they pass down knowledge, or we go out and seek the experience to learn. Children learn through modelling from their parents/caregivers and from opportunities to repeat the task over & over again.
For some (not all) children, it can look as though some skills development happens overnight. The mastery of the skill may actually happen over night i.e yesterday she couldn’t do up a button and today she can. But how did that happen? It’s all the work that went on behind the scenes that actually got you to that clapping-and-dancing-moment when you realised that your child could do up his/her own buttons. Children’s brains are like sponges, they absorb so much from the environment. Seeing you do up their buttons every day, seeing you do up your own buttons or their sibling’s buttons, gives them the head knowledge. Practice gives them the motor memory for it, the how-to knowledge.
One wonderful way of encouraging the development of dressing skills is by having an Alex Dressing Monkey – whilst you are dressing your child, doing up their buttons, putting on their socks etc, they can experiment on Alex… and then one day (for most kids) your child starts trying their own buttons (and zips, clasps etc). With some encouragement and praise, you get to that clapping-and-dancing-moment when they can do it all by themselves (usually somewhere between 3-5 years of age). For more info on dressing skills at certain ages, check out this article.
Children with hypermobility may take a bit longer to learn these crucial fine motor skills because the message to & from the brain to the fingers can be a little less accurate than their non-hypermobile peers, but eventually they get there (don’t worry, you shouldn’t be doing up their buttons forever!).
“My Ownself” is one of the many amusing things that my adorable nieces have both said.