What to Wear?
Let’s talk about clothing. We all wear it, it’s an expression of our personality, or how we’re feeling today, or simply protection from the elements. So, how do we dress our children? This can be one of the areas where conflicts can occur with young children, particularly during those stressful times, like getting ready for school. One of the ways we care for children, is by purchasing appropriate clothing and ensuring they’re dressed for success. Look good, feel good, right? What makes for a good outfit? This is one of those occasions when a little bit of preparation can make things a lot easier.
There are so many options available, online, pre-loved, at big box stores, in specialty boutiques. Children are so sensitive, soft fabrics are ideal, as are garments without tags or fasteners. Buttons and zippers are wonderful for fine motor control, but they can be an obstacle to independence with toileting, or can irritate young skin.
With all the inspiration available on social media, it’s tempting to choose fashion over function. A child’s criteria might be different, though. “Comfortable” wins out over “latest trend.” Clothes tend to fall into two categories: sometimes clothes and everyday clothes. Sometimes clothes, for adults and for children, can be fashion over function, a little extra zip, a little bonus bow. Since sometimes clothes can be extra appealing, with their pizzazz and association with extra fun, it can be helpful to put them away, out of sight out of mind, when they’re not an option for everyday wear.
Everyday clothes are clothes that allow children to do life — to move, to play, to sometimes get wet or dirty. This is comfort, soft fabrics, elastic, breathable, ready to go.
Some children have preferences — dresses rather than pants, jeans rather than sweats, leggings and a tunic, light up shoes and “soft pants.” Some children have definite color choices, only or never wanting to wear a certain color.
This is all completely normal.
What are your criteria, and what are your child’s preferences? When it comes down to it, what are the non-negotiables? Is it important that your child’s clothing matches? Is it imperative that your child’s clothing is laundered with every wearing? Can an outfit be worn multiple times in the same week? Do you prefer to pick out your child’s outfits? Once you’ve figured out what you’re willing to make an option for your child, and what’s a non-started, we’re off and running.
How much choice are you willing to give your child? Some families prefer to pick their child’s outfits head-to-toe, and life is easier for all parties involved. Others are comfortable with a lot of expression, from wearing a costume to sandals and socks to unconventional color combinations. There is no good or bad, only what works for your family.
A common situation is to have a collection of tops and a collection of bottoms, on hangers or in drawers, and a child picks one of each. If the weather dictates, would you like a cardigan or a sweatshirt? If it’s important that outfits match, purchasing everyday clothes in coordinating colors can help avoid argument. After all, it’s only an option if it’s in the closet.
Three things to keep in mind.
First, children have a different sense of logic when it comes to attire and self-expression than we do. While we might not wear a tee shirt with our favorite movie character, this is a natural choice for many children. What comprises an “outfit” could be “my favorites,” or “it’s comfy,” or “it was on top.”
Second, while we might like variety, and worry about wearing the same outfit repeatedly, children don’t always share this concern. Why wouldn’t I wear two hats, or multiple skirts, or mismatched socks? Blue is my favorite color, why would I wear anything else? Yes, I wore this shirt yesterday, it’s my favorite. And…??? If it helps, feel free to create a uniform of clothing that meet both your and your child’s parameters. Jeans and a tee shirt. Three red hoodies, for chilly days, so you never have to argue about which one to wear. Dresses, tights for the colder months, adventure sandals for running and climbing in the sun.
Third, we’re often a lot more worried about what people think about what we and our children wear, than others notice. As educators, we’re overjoyed when a child is at school, dressed, and fed. Some days, that’s a lot. We’ve met the strong-willed three-year-old proudly walking in with a tutu and rain boots, the child who refused to get dressed still wearing jammies, the child who has a closet full of this year’s clothing but insists on wearing last year’s favorites so now they’re vigorously scrubbing in capris and a belly shirt. There’s no judgement. There’s compassion and empathy. We’re partners in this, and we’re here to help.
Written by:Charlotte Wood