The average child can pull on her own boots and coat, starting at about preschool age. But knowing when these items are warranted is a different story. Just like any other skill, a child can be taught how to dress herself appropriately for cold weather, even when you're not there to remind her that sandals aren't for snowy days. Developing this skill takes lots of practice and reminders.
Gather the Options
While some kids are fashion mavens, others have little clue what garments hang in their closets. Before you can teach your child how to dress, you need to show her what cold-weather clothing she owns, and ask her to try it on for size at the beginning of every cold season. HealthyChildren recommends a child dress in several thin layers in winter. Show your child how she can layer leggings or long underwear under jeans, and a T-shirt under a sweatshirt and coat for chilly days. Many kids are resistant to wearing mittens, scarves and hats, so explain why these items are important for protecting her warm skin and preventing frostbite.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Repetition helps your child learn new skills. As cold weather approaches, have a few practice sessions at home. Pretend she's heading out to play in cold weather and ask her to dress herself. If her favorite doll or stuffed animal has play clothes, ask her to dress it for cold weather. Demonstrate how to work buttons and zippers. Talk about how to decide between wearing shoes and boots. For example, teach her to choose boots when the ground is wet or it is snowing. Help her in regard to which mitten goes on which hand and which boot on which foot.
Provide Visual Helpers
Your child's brain is busy, and she may not always remember your words when she's getting dressed. Visual reminders can trigger her memory. For example, buy a "How To Dress" thermometer that shows her what kind of pieces are appropriate based on the current temperature. Create signs to hang by the front door and in her school cubby or locker that reminds her of the pieces she should put on during cold weather. Seeing pictures of a hat, scarf and gloves will remind her that her coat isn't the only outerwear she needs.
Sing a Song
Just as looking at visual aids will remind your child of your words, so too will singing a song about getting dressed for cold weather. Make up your own tune or set your song to a tune she already knows, such as the alphabet song or Old MacDonald Had a Farm. For example, if you chose the latter, the lyrics might be something like "When it is so cold outside, this is what we wear. Wear a jacket here and wear a jacket there, here a jacket..." and so on. Additional lyrics would list gloves, boots and other items. Finish with a hat. Children lose more heat through their heads than adults do, so this is a must-have item.