At what age should a child pick out their own clothes?
It’s a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, as a parent, you want to give your child the opportunity to develop their own style. Studies even show that giving your youngster more control over their clothing options can improve their mental health.
A little control over their own outfits can give your kid more self-confidence and a sense of independence. You may have even noticed how excited your young child gets when they feel they’ve had an opportunity to pick their own outfit.
However, on the other hand, it’s important for us as parents to ensure our child is still dressing safely, and comfortably. Before you let your little one flaunt a bathing suit to the mall, it's important to have a plan in place to introduce self-dress. Check out this guide to understanding when and how a toddler should begin to dress themselves and providing them clothing choices as a guide.
When Should Toddlers Dress Themselves?
Your little one can start getting involved in dressing themselves as soon as they know how to navigate a shirt or a pair of shorts. However, that doesn’t mean they should necessarily be given full control over picking their outfit. There’s no “set rule” for picking the right age.
Some children can start dressing themselves as early as the age of two or three, provided they know how to choose the right (most appropriate) clothing for the situation. Others may need more guidance for a while longer, particularly if they’re not sure how to differentiate between winter and summer clothes, or “outside” and “indoor” outfits.
However, even if your child’s not fully ready to pick their entire outfit yet, you can still encourage them to get involved. Asking them about what they’d like to wear, and sharing friendly feedback on which clothes might not be right for certain occasions, can help to guide them.
Tips for Letting Kids Dress Themselves
While many children will have a basic knowledge of how to dress by the age of 3 or 4, they’ll still need a little guidance. They might know what clothes are, and how to use zips or buttons, but they may not fully understand why they can’t just wear their pajamas wherever they go.
Your job as a parent is to encourage and nurture your child’s curiosity, and help them to build the skills they’ll be able to use in the future. Here are some quick tips to help:
- Give them a few options to choose from: Rather than placing your child in front of a full wardrobe, make it easier for them to select the right garments by giving them a range of items to choose from. This means you can still control what types of clothes your child wears to a certain extent, and prevent them from picking unsuitable garments.
- Explain your options: Let your child know why you gave them certain clothes to pick from in the first place. Tell them if you chose clothing that was “formal” for a special occasion, or if you selected warmer garments because of a bad weather forecast.
- Be patient: Don’t rush your child to decide, and don’t scald them from picking the wrong clothes. Be patient. Ask your child why they made certain choices, or what’s going through their head if they’re struggling to make a decision.
- Keep an open mind: When you’re encouraging your child to dress themselves, don’t get too caught up worrying about whether certain patterns and solid colors match. What really matters is if your child is going to be happy, comfortable, and warm in whatever they wear.
- Practice: Like any skill, choosing the right clothing can often take time and practice. Don’t be downhearted if your child doesn’t grasp everything straight away. Make a daily habit of taking them to their wardrobe and helping them to pick the right clothes.
Helping Your Child Dress Themselves: Through the Years
The extent to which your child can pick out their own clothes and dress themselves will vary based on their age. When they’re still very young, they’re probably not going to be able to make very informed decisions, so it’s important to be patient.
The toddler years range usually from 1 to 3, and each year has different developmental milestones.
One Year Old
When your child turns one, you should be looking for them to sit up on their own and start pointing at objects. They may be able to point to or identify items you mention, like a dress or pair of shorts.
Many children aren't using full sentences at this age but can communicate through gestures like shaking their heads. Because walking isn't a universal milestone for one year olds, it'll be tough to teach them to dress themselves.
You can start them on the path to dressing themselves by allowing them to point at colors and shapes they like, and then helping them put on the clothes they choose.
Two Year Old
Two year olds vary dramatically in their developmental milestones . Some are talking in complete sentences by this age while others are still struggling to pronounce words with multiple syllables.
The newest milestone for many toddlers around age two is temper tantrums. You might begin to notice your child rejecting your help with dress more often. Don't worry, this is a toddler's way of showing independence.
The word 'no' will be used more frequently to show you they have their own opinion. If your child throws a tantrum when you won’t let them take over the dressing process, try to give them a bit more control. Give them a selection of options to choose from that make sense for the occasion.
Three Year Old
A three year old can typically communicate well with their parents. At this age, you can actually start having conversations with your child about their clothing options. You can explain why different kinds of clothing are appropriate for different temperatures and occasions.
Use storybooks to teach your child different types of clothing and when they are appropriate. You can also introduce your child to different clothing styles across various cultures. Allow them to explore why people in certain regions wear different types of clothing.
Mastering the Toddler Dressing Process
Often, the best way to instill new habits in your child is to start with a routine.
Creating your own “toddler dressing” routine is a great way to turn the everyday experience of getting dressed into a multi-sensory learning experience.
Don’t just give your child rules on what to wear, guide them through the dressing process, and give them insights into the kinds of garments that make sense. Listen to what they say, and try to support their need for independence and control. Now that we have answered that tricky question, “At what age should a child pick out their own clothes? " -i t's time to shop for some cute, comfy toddler clothing.