Should We Let Kids Choose their Clothes?

As a parent, it might seem daunting to let your children pick their own clothes. It could demand more time in the mornings until they decide; they could mismatch or choose garments that are inappropriate for the weather. However, letting children put together their own outfits is a great way to encourage their autonomy and creativity, while also developing their sense of style. 

Learning, choosing, and expressing opinions are big steps in the early development of a child. The act of choosing, in particular, builds independence and self-esteem, and it’s a great way to help children understand that the choices they make and the actions they take have outcomes. 

Children can start choosing much earlier than we may think. Naturally, between 18 months and three years old, kids start to develop their autonomy by voicing that they want or don’t want something and by experimenting with the relation of cause and effect. 

Parents can encourage autonomy by designing kids’ bedrooms that are fun and functional so that the act of choosing will feel like play and not like chores. Giving kids as many choices as we can is a great way to let them explore their self-expression, and it can also spark conversation. You can ask them to explain why they like a certain pattern or color, or why they think a particular combination looks good.

Remember not to be hypercritical and to let them stick with their choice, even if you don’t think it’s particularly stylish. If there’s a particular item or combination you as a parent don’t like, it’s better to remove it from their options altogether, as making them pick something and then taking that freedom away could lead to a confused and frustrated child. 

Some tips to make this activity easier and more fun are:

  • Making sure that their clothes are stored at an appropriate height so that children can reach for them without assistance. This ensures that, in time, they’ll be able to choose their outfits and get dressed without supervision.

  • If you are worried about children taking too long to decide, make fewer options available. The same applies to seasonal clothes; leave within their reach only the garments that are appropriate for the season and weather that day. 

  • Respect their efforts to complete the task. Expect that in the beginning; kids will struggle to do simple manual tasks like folding, buttoning up, and getting dressed in general, as their proprioception is not fully developed yet. Try to resist taking over or interfering as much as possible. But be available to help when they ask for it. 

  • Don’t disapprove of their choices. The process of getting dressed should be a pleasant bonding experience where your kids get to talk about their opinions and learn to adjust their choices to the context. 

  • As always, preparation is key, so every time a new concept or item of clothing is introduced to the routine, anticipate any issues it may bring about. For example, if your child now has rain boots, explain the context in which rain boots are used before they go ahead and choose to wear them on a sunny day.


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