How to Get Your Child to Dress for Winter Independently

mother playing with two children in snow

Now that winter break’s over, the temperatures continue to dip and sometimes fall below freezing. It’s important to make sure your child is properly dressed for the weather, especially if they play outside.

Parents always want their kids to feel snug and warm. But some mornings, you’re in a rush, and you just need your son or daughter to be a little more self-reliant and put their coat on themselves. You’re searching for that moment of independence when your child says, “Look, mommy, I did it myself!”

Maybe you’re thinking, “How can I make it easier for my child to put on their winter clothes?” 

It’s impossible for a teacher to know if every one of their students has their coat zipped. That’s why it’s so important for your child to be able to “do it for themselves.” Being able to put on and then zip up a jacket or winter coat builds their self-confidence as much as it protects them from the cold.

But how should a parent or caregiver teach a young child to put on their coat?

One method is commonly referred to as the “Flip Trick.” It’s also known as the “Tag, Toes, & Over it Goes” method:

  • Have your child lay the coat down on a table, desk, or even the floor.
  • The child should stand by the coat’s hood.
  • They place their arms through the coat’s sleeves, and then they pull the coat up and over their entire body.
  • For the visual learners out there, check out this video tutorial:

Once the child has mastered getting the coat on correctly, the next task is to zip it up. The first order of business should be to make it easier for them to see and grasp the pull tab.

  • Make it visible by painting it with a little nail polish, sticking on a favorite sticker, or using a Sharpie marker.
  • You can attach a paper clip or even a twist tie to the zipper pull that the child can more easily grab onto. This is especially helpful if their smaller finger can’t properly grasp the end of the zipper itself.
  • One of the hardest parts of zipping a coat is inserting the “free” side of the zipper onto its track. One technique some parents use to overcome this is to teach their child to never completely unzip the zipper.
  • Have your son or daughter zip and unzip the coat to about waist level. Then, have them put it on over their head like it’s a big shirt before zipping it the rest of the way up. This is more easily done if the coat is slightly big on them.

Once your child is wearing their coat, it’s time to think about their hands. In the cold, and especially if it’s snowing, they’ll need either gloves or mittens. Both will keep their fingers and hands warm, so the choice comes down to personal preference.

  • Gloves are harder for most children to put on, but they allow for much greater finger mobility, and they make it a lot easier to make a snowman.
  • Mittens gather all the fingers together, which can keep the hands warmer. Here, the downside is that the fingers can’t be used individually, which makes playing in the snow more challenging.

When it comes to gloves or mittens, however, here’s one tip applicable to both:

  • Be sure your child keeps them in their coat pocket when they’re not being used so that they aren’t lost. Also, it’s a good idea to teach your child to put them on their hands only after zipping up their coat. That’s because their bulk makes fastening up the coat more difficult than it has to be.

If it’s raining or snowing outside, you will want your child to wear warm shoes or boots. Oftentimes, they find it hard to tell which foot a shoe goes on. But thankfully this is also a fixable situation.

  • One trick is to cut a sticker with an image on it in half. Place the right half on or inside the right shoe and the left half of the sticker on or inside the left shoe. The child can then place the shoes next to each other so that the sticker halves meet.
  • Once they know their left from their right, this can be easily solved simply by writing, “R” inside the right shoe and “L” inside the left one.  
  • Hint: if a child can’t yet tell their left foot from their right foot, you can also loosely tie a bit of red yarn around their right ankle and then in RED marker on the inside of the shoe or boot just write the letter, “R.” And this way, the child only needs to match red with red to be sure to get the right shoe or boot on the right foot.

When helping your child learn how to dress themselves for colder temperatures, that old adage still rings true: “Practice makes perfect!” 


  • Putting on coats
  • Zipping up zippers
  • Buttoning buttons
  • Pulling on hats and gloves, or mittens.  

Now take all those items back off again. Practicing through play such as relay races or dress-up games makes it much easier and more motivating for children to practice these skill. They can become accustomed to quickly putting on and taking off their outdoor coats and accessories. This will make it fun for them, and in the end, it will mean easier prep that allows for more playtime!