Letting Kids Choose What They Wear; 5 Benefits!

Most kids, at some stage, will love to have some autonomy over what they’re wearing. Here are 5 important benefits that can come from letting kids choose what they wear.

Introduction

Have you tried letting your kids pick their own outfits? Yes, they will come up with some questionable choices – gumboots, a scarf and a swimming costume with a jacket on, for daycare on a hot day? How about a tutu with thongs, and a pyjama singlet for a cold winter’s day? It’s not only a chance for kids to develop independence and motor skills, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for self-expression, problem-solving and developing self-confidence! Read on as I explain further.  

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1. It Encourages Independence

At a certain age (think toddlers – from around age 2), your child will want to have a higher level of autonomy in how their day-to-day lives go. Allowing them to do simple things, such as picking out their own outfits, develops important independence skills, encourages self-reliance and therefore empowers them!

Allowing kids to make their own decisions, within reason, regarding certain parts of their day, allows a sense of agency1 and makes them feel like confident, capable learners.

Letting Kids Choose What They Wear
Allowing kids to choose their own clothes encourages problem-solving, develops fine motor skills and builds independence skills.

Choosing their own clothing is a decision that you could guide, while still allowing them the final decision – for example, “Savannah, I’ve put 3 outfits on the bed for you to choose from! You can pick any of those to wear today. It’s your choice!” Or if the weather conditions are not a consideration, why not just open the closet, and let them go for it!

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Allowing toddlers to choose their own undies at the shops is also a great way to encourage and develop the toilet training process, as it gives little ones some ownership over their clothing choices and develops an interest in wearing the undies they chose, rather than the nappies. You can read my best Toilet Training Tips HERE.

2. It Gives Them the Freedom to Express Themselves

Letting your little one reign supreme in the closet encourages them to discover and develop their sense of style and express their personality and individuality through their outfit. They can decide if they want to blend in or stand out from the crowd in certain situations. In addition, it’ll pave the way to making them comfortable in their own skin, loving their own bodies, and encouraging creative thinking and creative expression through clothing choices. For kids that may be experiencing gender dysphoria, this is especially important. You can read more about Bigender kids and gender dysphoria in my article HERE.

It’s just like playing dress up!2 It also allows them to role play, test out how they feel wearing particular outfits and make sense of the world around them as they make observations of what others wear and use this information to inspire or motivate them creatively.

This is a great way for them to challenge societal norms from a young age, assuming the clothing choices are mostly appropriate for the setting. i.e – sun safe3, appropriate for weather conditions and mostly decent.

girl in dress, kids choosing their own clothes
Ok, so a responsible parent would not let a child walk on the street bare feet, but love the dress!!

3. It Makes Your Life Easier

When kids learn to choose their own clothes, and dress themselves independently from an early age, this makes your job as a parent, easier in the long run! Less crying, less fighting, and less stress for you! Sometimes taking a step back and letting your kids take charge is the secret sauce to a hassle-free day. For example, imagine how getting ready for pre-school or daycare in the morning could be much easier and quicker if you let them have fun choosing their own outfits. You could even make some silly suggestions of your own, and encourage this creativity.

It may take longer than just quickly choosing something yourselves and dressing them, but in the meantime, they will develop problem-solving skills, self-determination, hand-eye coordination, self-esteem will improve and so further down the track, this may save you time on guiding them and helping them choose. Just make sure you encourage them to pack away the clothes they chose NOT to wear, rather than leaving them sprawled across the bedroom! ; )

If they’re enjoying this autonomy and self-expression through outfit choices, you could also use it as a learning opportunity to teach them how to organize their closet properly4.

Letting Kids Choose What They Wear
Choosing outfits can be messy business! Make sure you encourage your kids to pack away the clothes they WON’T be wearing!

4. It Lets Them Form Their Own Opinions

Giving your kids a chance to choose their clothing and their outfits is an effective way to encourage them to use their own minds, form their opinions, and eventually become critical thinkers. When they think about whether a particular piece of clothing fits the occasion or not, or if they come to the conclusion that they don’t like wearing it because it has an itchy or uncomfortable fabric, it’s a fantastic way to practice their critical thinking skills. When they tell you about it or pick out an outfit based on those observations, you’re also motivating them to speak their mind and communicate effectively.

kids choosing their clothes, dress ups,
If she wants to be doctor for a day, let her go for it! Dress ups are fun!!

From a very young age, my son Andy decided he absolutely hated to wear jeans! He even refused to wear denim in shorts or jackets as he hated how heavy and stiff it felt and even now as a 12 year old, he still hates denim and prefers soft cotton and elastic waist pants. I think it’s important to listen to our kids and empower them to form their own opinions so they can have confidence in their own decision-making skills as they grow and develop. Which brings me to my next point..

5. It Builds Confidence in Decision-Making

Decision-making is a critical skill5 that your children need to learn and master. It’s something that comes in many layers. First, there’s figuring out what to do in certain situations and facing the consequences of their actions. Developing their decision-making skills will also give you the confidence that they’ll start to make the right decisions, even when you’re not around.

Also, sometimes allowing them to experience the consequences of their decision-making is better than telling them what to do. This is key in an authoritative parenting style, rather than authoritarian. You can read more about these parenting styles HERE.

Letting Kids Choose What They Wear
Most of the time, having battles with your child about what they choose to wear is just not worth the stress – make sure you’re being a responsible parent, and remember, you can always try to compromise.

For example, instead of stressing and arguing with them, you could let them go ahead and wear that cute sun dress they love so much during winter. Maybe just suggest a long sleeve t-shirt for underneath, and have their coat and extra warm clothes within reach for when they realize why their chosen outfit isn’t exactly the coziest for cold seasons. They may then make a different decision next time. Having said that, kids tend to get so caught up in play sometimes, they don’t feel the cold, so it’s important to be the responsible parent and make those decisions for them as appropriate.

Summary

Most children will want to choose their own clothes or entire outfits at some stage during growing up. When children choose their clothes, essentially playing dress up and broadening their understanding of the world at the same time, we encourage them to think creatively, to use problem-solving skills, to develop their independence, to make decisions and develop critical thinking. We build their self-confidence and self-esteem, allow them to form their own opinions, develop their hand eye coordination as they manage zips, buttons and general dressing and undressing, and we are also communicating to them that we value them as an individual and we value their decisions – however crazy, unmatched or cringey those decisions may be.. haha.

Choosing what kids wear, or having battles with kids over wardrobe choices is just not one of the big things that needs to cause stress in a family home in my opinion. There will be so many other challenges in the journey of parenting, that most of the time, we can just let them have this.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you let your children wear what they want? Do you think we should let children pick their own outfits within reason, with predetermined choices from us, or let them go for it?? Let me know in the comments below!

Reference List:

  1. ‘Respecting a child’s sense of agency and belonging’, Xplor Education. Published: Feb 18, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.ourxplor.com/respecting-a-childs-sense-of-agency-and-belonging on Feb 12, 2023.
  2. ‘Playing Dress-Up: Benefits, How to Start, and Tips’, Kimberley Zapata, Healthline. Published (updated): Nov 23, 2020. Accessed online at https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/playing-dress-up on Feb 12, 2023.
  3. ‘Sun protection for babies and children’, Cancer Council NSW. Accessed online at https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-prevention/sun-protection/preventing-skin-cancer/sun-protection-for-babies-and-children/ on Feb 12, 2023.
  4. ‘HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR CLOSETS PROPERLY: 6 TIPS FROM OUR EXPERTS’, Super Cleaning Service, Louisville. Accessed online at https://supercleaningservicelouisville.com/keeping-closets-organized/ on Feb 12, 2023.
  5. ‘Helping Kids Make Decisions’, Gia Miller, Child Mind Institute. Published (updated): Jan 19, 2023. Accessed online at https://childmind.org/article/helping-kids-make-decisions/ on Feb 12, 2023.

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