The Struggle is Real: Winter Dressing

by Amanda Simmons MS, OTR/L

As the winter commences, so does our necessity to dress warmly in layers. Dressing a child with special needs or sensory processing deficits provides an added challenge to the already restrictive daily time constraints. Below are some tips and tricks to help your family prepare for a new winter dressing routine.

1. Add 10 minutes into your routine

Build yourself 10 minutes in the morning to get you and your child ready for the day – winter clothing has more fasteners, is more difficult to get on, and there are simply more items. To help with an early morning wake up, consider a sunrise alarm clock. It is a helpful and soothing way to begin the wake up process earlier than you normally need to.

2. Have a designated spot for all your winter gear

Have your child set aside all his/her winter gear the night before so that you are not rushed in the morning. Turn this into a game: hide all the items in the evening, and have your child find them (like a treasure hunt) prior to bed-time. This will further turn winter dressing into play.

3. Consider a visual schedule for sequencing tasks

Some children genuinely do not intuitively understand the order in which clothing is put on, and may even feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to dress themselves in so many different items. Your occupational therapist can work with you on creating a visual for your household.

4. Tight base layers

Children with sensory processing and tactile difficulties often have difficulty tolerating itchy clothing, which may prohibit them from wearing pants or long sleeves. Tight (under-armor or nylon) athletic gear can be worn underneath clothing to mitigate any fabric or texture issues.

5. “Magic Spray”

With children between 3-6, magical thinking is in full swing. If your child struggles with textures, consider creating a “magic spray” (fabric softener spray) with your child (let them pick out the scent, if applicable, let them pour it into the spray bottle, let them “mix it up”), and apply it to the clothing the night before. Create a story around it: “this magical spray makes clothes softer and less itchy, look, I’m putting it on my clothes too! Let’s see if it works!”. This gives children agency over their sensory processing difficulties.

6. Sensory friendly clothing companies

Some companies are creating tag-less, sensory friendly clothing that can be worn throughout the year. Kickypants.com, kozieclothes.com, and even Target have sensory friendly options.

Have a challenge you’d like us to address? Comment below!