Personal Flair: When Our Kids Start Dressing Themselves

When toddlers start dressing on their own, well, there should be a nature documentary.

When they are babies, we do everything for them, including choosing what they wear. We base those choices on criteria like, is it weather appropriate, will they pull it off right way, and of course, how cute the whole ensemble is

Moms will tell you with laughing tears about the obviously different criteria men use in getting the tot ready: is it easy to get off to change the diaper, do I care if it gets totally messy, and our favorite: have they been wearing it for the last four days?

That wardrobe criteria change again, radically and much to our dismay, once they get old enough to have preferences and convey those preferences. Sadly, those preferences usually don’t have a lot to do with sensible reality: does it go with my Transformer mask? Does it make me look magic like Elsa? Never, is it warm enough?

If you think this isn’t all about the development of personal taste, we invite you to look back over some of your grade school photos.

It can catch you by surprise when you no longer have control over what the kid wears. Suddenly your values are in your face in a way you never knew before. When your little boy suddenly wants a princess cape, or your girl goes to preschool in something that looks like it transported coffee beans from South America, as cool as you want to be, you cringe a little.

This can lead to power struggles, tantrums, and time-outs at the most convenient time of day: morning, when you are already running late for work. Here’s some food for thought on the dressing emancipation project your child is embarking on.

  • This is a sign of independence. Style faux pas aside, try to see this for what it is – a milestone in fine and gross motor skills, a step toward self-sufficiency, and eventually, another thing you do not have to do yourself.
  • Provide parameters and options. Praise the effort toward dressing but explain that you need whatever they choose to be safe, comfortable, and keep them warm. Provide examples of things that are and are not appropriate. One strategy is to put together two outfits and let them choose one.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, and kids clothes are all small. We all want our kids to look good; that’s why we play dolls when we are little. But unless you have limitless time and money to spend on your little fashionista, they are likely going to wear it a few times and either trash it or outgrow it. There is really no point in being too precious with any one article of clothing.
  • Make time at home to wear whatever they want. Let them go naked except for cowboy boots or throw on the clown costume when they are home. They have all the time in the world to be self-conscious about their clothes. This is expression and it’s part of identity.
  • Make the process easy. Shoes can be an obstacle with laces and buckles, so go for shoes that use Velcro or snaps. Same with sweaters or sweatshirts; try to encourage items that they can practice on but can still wear without too much fuss.

Take a big sigh and put your ideas about taste to work where they matter: your own closet. If it seems like a big deal now, just wait until you have teenagers. Now while they are young, we should give them creative license even if that means mud pie making in the Christmas dress. The daily experiment in fashion will constantly impress and entertain you, if you let it.



About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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