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 her 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 herself by having a few items on-hand that she can choose between. Offering simple choices, like letting her choose from a green or yellow shirt, will help her 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 her 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 she will be grateful for them once you get outdoors – though she 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 she can explore all she wants without a deadline. This will give her a special time to show you what she likes 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 her clothes may end in disagreements now and then, but allowing Baby the chance for self-expression will build her confidence in a way that will only help her as she grows. If she is truly fussing over something you’re insisting she 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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