Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Preschooler dressing mat

I don't know what the deal is in our household when it comes to getting dressed. Well, it's probably the same in your household if you have a preschooler. As soon as the clothes are out and ready to go on, Reuben turns in to some kind of gymnast/monkey/bouncy ball/disappearing act/actually-totally-normal-four-year-old.

While he is quite capable of dressing himself if he turns his mind to it, he generally prefers me to do it, and I'm afraid I'm keen to follow the quickest route. But so often it isn't very quick, and his circus antics drive me crazy. So I had an outrageously good idea - and yes, it was all my idea, I didn't even see it on Pinterest. 

Yesterday we made a dressing mat. I desperately want to just pin him to a spot on the floor to keep him still, so we have created footprints for him to stand on while getting dressed. I just traced around his feet on a thick piece of card, then drew over the pencil lines with a blue felt pen. I was keen for him to decorate it further actually, but he was happy with it as it was. While I had thought decorating the card would be the main part of the activity, the finding, cutting, tracing and discussion of the idea all kept him interested and well occupied. If you have a keen decorator, this activity will last twice as long as it did for us.

I was tempted to colour in the feet, but you might find that warm little feet and felt pens are a bad combination, so take that in to consideration. Stickers on the feet and drawing around the outside might keep everyone happy. 

I'm very proud that my inaugural kids' activity on The Sponge is actually a ploy to make parents' lives easier. Don't expect such brilliance from all future activities.

I'll report back in a few days on how the dressing mat is going. My next plan is to attach some string to his head and to the ceiling to get him to stand up while I'm getting him dressed. I'll let you know how that goes too.

I do wonder if the morning battle would be better spent getting him to dress himself every day, as that is the ultimate goal. But I do have a need for speed. While I know I need to take the time for them to learn things for themselves, my sanity is often at stake and I'm not sure I'm ready to take that on yet. Not every day. Preschooler parents, how does the dressing routine go for you?

Post Script : We've used the mat a few times this week, though not every morning, and once when undressing for bathtime. It works quite well. There is still quite a lot of bouncing and even some racing away, but it gives us a focus to get back to which is really good. This morning I couldn't bear to clamber off my knees and go and get it when I remembered it, so instead built a little fence in a square on the floor with some handy pieces of nearby lego, and that had a similar effect.


  1. I do love this. I just wish I could convince my 9 month old to stay still (or at least on his back) for a nappy change at least. A friend has shown me a technique, which involves me putting a leg over him, although it did cause a few raised eye brows at my mother-in-laws the other day (but he stayed on his back, so I judged it a success!)

    How has the dressing mat worked so far?

    1. Oh Pippa! Esther has driven me CRAZY with nappy changes!! I have always changed her on her change table (it's surrounded, so pretty safe). My Dad ended up picking up a massive fluoro orange velcro tie thingy that is meant for tying down trailer loads!! I wrapped it all the way under her change table, and pulled it tight across her tummy for nappy changes. Even then she fought pretty successfully. It did stop eventually, I'm pleased to report. I also got a couple of musical, flashy toys that were only for nappy changes, that worked a bit.

      When I was a baby my parents called me Octopus, so apparently I can only blame myself...

      Thanks for the interest, I've just added a postscript.

      PS - Maybe if your m-i-l changed him he would stay still for her? ;)

    2. As from this week m-I-l will have her chance as she is having him as I return to work...we shall see!

      Thanks for the post script, I like the Lego fence idea too.

  2. For my son to get him dressed quickly (although hes 5 now) I tell him its a race to see if he can be dressed with his shoes and socks on before I count to 100. Hes so proud when hes ready before I get to 50. Cool idea with the mat though :)

    1. Oh yes, great. We have done a bit of that - with all kinds of activities, and it can work really well. He loves it, too, when he gets something done before we reach the number agreed on.

  3. What a brilliant idea! Might be useful when I need to get my little one dressed in a hurry when she starts school next week.

    We often have problems with standing still (or being still in any way at all really!). Sometimes we play "pretending to be a tree", which works really well for 10 minutes or so. She makes different shapes with her arms to be different types of tree (a round oak tree, a pointy fir tree, a spiky holly bush, a Christmas tree with twinkling star at the top) - but all have the common theme of having feet firmly planted on and rooted to the ground as the trunk!