When should children dress themselves?

One important tool a parent learns quickly is knowing when to pick their battles. So when you’re running late in the morning and Baby comes out of their bedroom wearing a bathing suit and superhero cape, what are you supposed to do?

Toddlers have strong opinions, and around age 2, these preferences join forces with the ability to dress and undress – a recipe for fashion disaster. While Baby’s outfits might have been carefully selected and perfectly coordinated up until this point, now may be the time to take a deep breath and spice things up with some mismatched clothing (clashing prints included).

Offer choices

If you’re having a relaxing day at home, there’s no reason Baby can’t sport a tutu and rain boots. However, if you have somewhere important to be, you may choose to be more practical. In those cases, you can play to Baby’s desire to express themself by having a few items on-hand that they can choose between. Offering simple choices, like letting them choose from a green or yellow shirt, will help them feel involved and respected.

Set limits

There will be times when you have to lay down the law, especially in cases involving safety and dressing for the weather. These occasions may be met with some protest. However, it’s your job to keep Baby safe, and it’s OK to tell them that a tank top just won’t do for playing in the snow. You can explain gently that a hat and gloves will keep Baby warm, and they will be grateful for them once you get outdoors – though they may not tell you so.

Encourage excitement

Learning to dress is a huge milestone for toddlers, as they’ve accomplished a new task, and doing so gives them the chance to express their tastes and opinions. If Baby is interested, you can set aside some time specifically for dress-up, so they can explore all they want without a deadline. This will give them a special time to show you what they like without there being boundaries in place, and will allow you to see how creative your tot has become. 

The bottom line

Allowing Baby to choose their clothes may end in disagreements now and then, but allowing Baby the chance for self-expression will build their confidence in a way that will only help them as they grow. If they are truly fussing over something you’re insisting they wear, it may be a good time to check out what might be causing the aversion. Sometimes something as small as an itchy tag can be a big deal for a little person.  

In general, as long as the outfit is seasonal and appropriate, it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the fashion show!

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