Help! My Kid Has to Choose Their Own Clothes

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kids dress themselves

Every parent will experience at some time or another; your child comes out of their room in what you describe as a clown suit mixed with a hint of cowboy and a few Christmas accents thrown in for good measure.

Help! My kid has to choose their clothes, now what? And rest assured, we have seen it all at the Twin Cities Kids Club and welcome your little darling to join us; however, they show up!

Do you stifle their creativity and ask them to change, or do you straighten their neon cowboy hat and say “Nice job, partner”? Be mindful of your words. 

kids dress themselves

Help! My Kid Has to Choose Their Own Clothes – the Milestones

According to Parents, around the age of 2 to 3, toddlers start showing interest in dressing themselves. They usually start with an easy option, such as a t-shirt with no buttons. Generally, they have already figured out how to undress first, often at the most inappropriate times! 

Motor Skills

Dressing themselves is vital to developing your toddler’s motor skills:

  • Gross motor: positioning arms and legs into shirt sleeves and pant legs, and adjusting their weight and bodies to take off shoes and pants
  • Fine motor: zippers, buttons, laces, ties, and snaps all take finger coordination
  • Cognitive: understanding different clothes for different weather and various activities

How to Handle their Artistic Choices – Set Expectations

The parenting mantra of pick your battles more than applies aptly here. If there is no harm in them wearing a tutu to the grocery store, let them. Other parents will smile, wink, and give you that knowing nod.

In Minnesota, kids must be dressed appropriately for the weather, ranging from negative 50 to 105 degrees. Climate conditions are non-negotiable. But there are ways to let your child still have a choice.

A great routine is to check the weather every morning and discuss what kinds of clothes would be good choices for the day. If you have a calendar, you can look at events for the day: i.e., it will be 20 below, and you have preschool today.

“You will be wearing your snowsuit and boots to school but no outdoor recess, so how do you think you should dress today?” If your child says she wants to wear sandals, you can explain why that is not an option in the winter. “Remember how cold you were last fall, and there was not even snow on the ground yet”. Make them a part of the solution.

kids dress themselves

The Mess

In your toddlers, enthusiasm to dress themselves often comes a big mess. Clothes pulled off hangers, multiple outfits tried on, or costume changes throughout the day. At that age, mom and dad are responsible for keeping their room clean and organized, but the toddler can help. This is also great for skill development.

“How many buttons can you button while the shirt is on the hanger? Where is your pant drawer?” Asking questions, receiving answers, and doing strategies will make it less chore-like and more intriguing to the toddler. 

Being an assistant to mom or dad is a natural way to develop not only growing-up skills but life skills.

Patience and time expectations are also critical for your child to succeed. And this is true for everyone in the house – older siblings may show the most frustration at having to wait for their little brother or sister. Give siblings other tasks to help in the routine, such as gathering the library books or helping pack the snacks before heading out for the day.

Why Should Parents Let Their Kids Dress Themselves?

There are many good reasons besides developing motor skills to let kids choose their own outfits. The Tot explains kids dressing themselves is about independence, nurturing creativity, and problem-solving. 

kids dress themselves

What are Some Cautions?

Parents points out that by 30 months, your child should have the ability to dress themselves. If this is not the case, ask yourself what is going on? Are you doing it to make the morning routine go smoother and quicker, or is your child not developing the right skills?

Either way, try giving your child some buttons and zippers to play with, use actual clothing, or an activity board. Make a fun game out of it. When they have mastered the skill, gently push them to get ready on their own, “I know you can do buttons – we were doing them yesterday.”

Dr. Ruskin says. “Emotions can shift within seconds. She can go from joy at putting on her favorite pink dress to frustration at not being able to get a piece of clothing on or at feeling that a shirt seems too tight,” Dr. Ruskin adds. Praise and encouragement are much healthier than shaming and demands of  “change right now.”

After some training, not being able to pull on and off shoes may be a sign of decreased strength and motor planning or sensory issues. Always check with your pediatrician for any concerns or questions.

Self Worth

When we fuss over our children’s appearance, we tell them that worth comes from the outside – the “what will people think “response can be detrimental. And even though, if we are honest, what we are apprehensive about is how it reflects on us. We immediately imagine others thinking, “how do they let their kids out of the house like that.”

However, what we are telling our kids is people are judging them on their looks.

Toddlers develop so quickly, from potty training to ridding themselves of nooks, bottles, and cribs. Dressing on their own gives them some control over their world. Think about your own life and what helps you feel independent of a boss, family, or friends. 

If they have the confidence to wear what makes them happy, isn’t that a good thing? We all can use a boost – and who knows, maybe you will match along with them and don your sparkly cowboy hat when you go to the grocery store with your clown suit mixed with a hint of cowboy and a few Christmas accents, toddler in tow. 

Don’t forget to join Twin Cities Kids Club today!

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