As a teacher of the very young, it is the first moments the children arrive at school that are always my favorite moments of the day. One of the things that the children like to bring to my attention is their attire. It may be that they want to show me a new necklace their mom let them wear to school or the fact that they are wearing a raincoat because it was raining. The children (all preschoolers) all have a definite style. I love to see how their style works with their personalities. We are a no judgement zone about clothing. When a child talks to me about his or her clothing I always respond enthusiastically with description instead of saying that I like or dislike something. This is because I want each child to take pride in his or her own choices, not in my likes or dislikes.

This week I listened to a podcast from the Baan Dek school in South Dakota about clothing and children. It’s certainly a hot topic with families who struggle with their children’s strong preferences surrounding clothing. You can listen to the podcast yourself below or continue reading for a quick synopsis.

Clothing choice is very personal. When we believe we look good, we feel good. Of course what we think looks good is very subjective which is why parent and children often have a lot of conflict over clothing choices. So what can we do to set up our children for success?

A little preparation can make things go a lot smoother.

We have to remember that children are very sensitive. Clothing made from soft fabrics are best. Tags, buttons, zippers and snaps are often bothersome for very young children. They also impede independence in young children who often wait until the last minute to go to the bathroom.

As adults we have everyday clothing and once-in-a-while clothing. We save the scratchy, uncomfortable, squeeze our toes clothes for those special occasions when we want to look really dazzling (and don’t mind being uncomfortable to achieve it). Children don’t have the same decision making skills. They see something they love and want to wear it. No matter that the tulle is scratchy, the heels are going to make them fall at recess or that the button pants are hard to undo. Better to put those fancy clothes out of sight during the every day clothing choice.

As parents one of the first things to think about are your own non-negotiable feelings surrounding your child’s clothing. Do you think your child has to match every day? Do you mind if she wears the same shirt several times a week? Do you think girls need to wear skirts? These choices are very individual and should be determined before you begin buying clothes for your children and giving them choices. Make the choices you give your child conform to your desires. If you need your child to match, buy only tops and bottoms that will all go together. If you want your child to express his personality, allow your child to pick freely from his clothing. By predetermining your must have’s you will eliminate a lot of pain and suffering from the equation. 

Remember these three principles when dealing with clothing issues:

  1. Children have a different sense of logic around attire than do parents. They don’t think like we do.
  2. Children aren’t concerned with style in the same way as adults. They love to mix horizontal stripes with vertical ones and add a tutu for good measure.
  3. Adults are more worried about what other people think then is generally true. We preschool teachers delight in the crazy clothing combinations and love to see the joy that children have in sharing their style.

Enjoy your child’s style and worry a little less about her looking the way you think is necessary. Give a few choices, stick with your non-negotiables and you all will have a little more happiness every morning before school!