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Teaching Grownup Grooming Skills

Girl pouting

During this year, children take their first tentative steps toward several other adult practices. To a mom and dad on a busy schedule, these new attempts may, at times, seem halting indeed. At 2, for example, a child usually shows great interest in the business of dressing and undressing himself. In reality, however, he may accomplish little more than taking off his socks or a jacket or sweatshirt. By age 2 1/2, though, your child will probably be able to undress himself completely -- which can be a huge help at bathtime and the bane of a parent's existence at other times. Getting dressed is clearly more difficult than undressing. At this age, your toddler may be able to put on only socks and a shirt, a sweater or a coat. Be supportive and very patient. Mastering this task completely on his own may still be a year or more away.

You can help make dressing a snap by choosing clothes for your child that respect his limited skills: easy, pull-on styles without small buttons, snaps, or difficult zippers. Also avoid clothes with closures in the back. Stand by, ready to assist your child, but remind yourself that doing things for him may slow his progress in acquiring these skills and undermine his budding sense of independence.

Tooth brushing is another grownup activity for which your child can take increasing responsibility this year. Get in the habit of helping your child brush her teeth at least once a day, especially at bedtime and after chewy snacks. Toddlers are often fascinated by this ritual, but enthusiasm aside, most kids this age don't have the focus or control necessary to get teeth really clean. So you'll have to help with the actual brushing. When doing so, make sure you don't overlook the back molars. Your toddler may resist having you poke around in the back of her mouth, but that's where many cavities begin. Also, limit the amount of toothpaste that you use; a fair portion is likely to be swallowed.

This year you may also want to consider taking your child to the dentist. (The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a visit as early as 6 months, while the American Academy of Pediatrics says the first visit can wait until age 3, as long as your child is in regular contact with a pediatrician.) The dentist will make sure your child's teeth are positioned normally and will most likely give her a basic lesson in good oral hygiene habits, showing her what she needs to do to keep her teeth healthy.