As young as two years old, my daughter showed interest in choosing her own outfits. She wanted the control of deciding what garments graced her toddler form. My first reaction was, “I can’t let you go in public dressed like a clown.” Then, I remembered a piece of parenting advice I had received, “pick your battles”. Was this a battle I wanted to have each day, or could I learn to let this strong willed child take the wheel? I chose the latter, and can proudly say that my decision was correct. With weather appropriate guidelines, I allowed for my daughter to dress herself.
Here’s how it’s helped her grow:
Learning names of colors
Sure, all kids learn colors during the preschool years, but does your child know the difference between periwinkle, blue, and purple? When my curious, then-two-year old, started choosing her outfits her inquisitive mind needed more options. She delved into the color wheel for more than just primary and secondary colors. If you’ve never heard a toddler try to pronounce chartreuse I highly suggest bringing it up at the dinner table tonight.
Just as adults have favorite clothes, so do toddlers. Whether it’s the fabric, color, or fit of the garment, we find something we love that instills confidence while wearing it. The more I let my daughter play and experiment with her outfits, the more assertive her choices. Her favorite outfit at the moment is a tutu over solid leggings, with a print top, and over laying jacket. The sunglasses and light up rain boots give the entire ensemble a flare that accentuates her personality.
Problem Solving Skills
This is a skill that some adults still haven’t mastered. Some of life’s biggest hurdles require a level head and the ability to see the solution through the problem. While, my now four year old, isn’t a master of this craft, she has had ample amounts of practice in her short life. When the weather impedes on the outfit you had your heart set on, you can either cry about it, or fix it. My daughter does both, but the point is she is learning to find her own solutions. Wanting to wear a tank top but it’s cold and raining? Add a long sleeve shirt under the tank top. Hopefully, as she grows the scales will balance out on the amount of tears and problem solving.
This one is pretty obvious, but what really comes as the surprise is how the creativity comes through in other aspects of a toddler’s life. My daughter has always been drawn to the arts. Her skill set in drawing and creating characters with storylines through her drawings is a direct result of allowing her to dress herself. She puts thought into the color of a princess’s dress, determining why the princess needs a yellow dress instead of a blue.
Practicing manners and patience
As much as she tries to be her own version of Beyoncé, my daughter still needs help with some aspects of dressing. I take every opportunity I can to teach her patience and manners. We use please and thank you, and wait our turn when asking for help. Most times, the please is a drawn out whine, but I digress, she’s learning.
I know as parents we have the urge to paint a picture of perfection for the world to see. Our children are always in matching outfits, not a stain in sight. They are polite, clean, and well-behaved, never embarrassing us in public with meltdowns or tantrums. Now that you’ve awoken from your dream life, bring your focus back to the real world. Pick your battles friends, and what your kids wear shouldn’t be one of them.