As a parent, we want the best for our children and we try to teach them to be as independent as possible to be successful in life. Learning the skill, of putting on and taking off shoes and socks, is one of the first dressing skills to develop to become independent in dressing. Typically, children will learn how to take clothes off before they can put them on. With socks, children can typically take off socks by 18 months, put on socks with assistance with orientation of 3 years, and put on socks independently by 4 years. At times, this task can be very difficult for children as this requires visual motor integration skills, fine motor coordination skills, bilateral hand coordination, crossing midline, and at times sitting balance. Depending on what the child is working on, many children will need to address not only the task of shoe tying but also the other areas listed.
Below is a video of a child taking off hair ties to prepare for taking off socks:
As long as the child does not have other areas to address, there are some different ways to practice putting on and taking off socks. One fun way to address socks is to use hair ties or rubber bands to get over toes and around ankle. Typically, rubber bands may pull on skin therefore hair ties will be more gentle on the skin. A few variations would be to use a number dice or a color dice. When you roll the dice, the child will put on the number of bands or the color rolled.
Ways to make the activity easier:
To take off:
- Get the child started by sliding the rubber band down over the ankle then they can pull it the rest of the ways off.
- Help the child place their thumb inside the rubber band when its above the ankle, then they can pull it off.
- Allow the child to sit against a wall to give them more support.
- Use simple and specific verbal cues (thumb in, push down)
To put on:
- Get the child started by placing the rubber band over the toes, then the child can finish by pulling it up and over the ankle.
- Help the child hook their thumbs in the rubber band to pull apart before the attempt to place around their toes.
- Use simple and specific verbal cues.
Ways to make the activity harder:
To take off:
- Challenge the child to use the opposite hand – left hand and right foot then vice versa.
- Challenge the child to close their eyes so they use more of their tactile, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive senses (all related to body awareness)
- Challenge the child to take it off of someone else’s foot. This will challenge them because it works on different motor planning and visual motor integration skills.
- Challenge the child to take off the rubber band while standing and leaving their back against a wall, standing without leaning against any support surface, sitting on an unstable surface to challenge postural control.
To put on:
- try to put on two or more at the same time.
- Close eyes
- Try using only one hand.
- Put it on someone else’s food.
- Challenge the child to put on the rubber band while standing and leaving their back against a wall, standing without leaning against any support surface, sitting on an unstable surface to challenge postural control.
This activity is great for children of all ages and is a wonderful way to challenge children as well as assist the child to develop the needed skills for dressing to be independent.