Do you wage a daily battle when you try to dress your kids? Is it more of an all-out war? Put down that dinosaur sweatshirt because I'm here with good news. With a little bit of help, your kids can dress themselves. In fact, it's good for them!
As a working mom of two, making the most of my time is a constant obsession. I totally get why many parents opt to dress their kids to get them moving. But learning to self-dress is essential. It's a life skill and emotional milestone that kids need to reach to become self-motivated and independent. This boost to their self-esteem lays the foundation for a positive mindset and enables them to develop the motor skills required to grip objects to write, draw, and cut.
But if the idea of self-dressing conjures up thoughts of mismatched kids and late bells, read on for a few tips to help your little darlings (ha!) clothe themselves properly and with enthusiasm.
Less is more. Often, we fall into the trap of more. Buying more so you'll have more on hand. Buying more in hopes you can do laundry less, that they'll find a new favourite, maybe just because there's a sale. But instead of making things easier, you end up with a massive pile of clothing that's outgrown in the blink of an eye.
The solution? Being mindful, buying less, and according to their needs and preferences. Choose higher quality items that can handle lots of wear and play, and frequent washing.
Marie Kondo, author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, advocates for a crisp, clean life, free of extraneous clutter. Kid closets are a great place to start. Given how quickly they outgrow their clothes, you're less likely to have an emotional attachment to them (vs. trying to dump your box of high school yearbooks and class pictures). Most children have an overabundance of clothing anyway, a mix of hand-me-downs, gifts, and bargains that mom couldn't resist snapping up. How much of what they have do they need? How much could you toss before they'd even notice?
Reducing your options will help streamline your mornings. Less to choose from can be a good thing. Remember when you had 30 channels to watch and not 10,000 possible shows on Netflix? Same idea.
Make it happen. The first step? Stop shopping for next season. Deep inside you know that another sale will come around again. Trust.
Now it's time to do an inventory. Look at your multiples. Your kid probably doesn't need 6 hoodies. Eliminate a few based-on fit, style, and preferences, and put the castoffs in a pile (you'll probably be shocked at how big it ends up getting). Consider getting your child involved in this decision-making process. They might have some strong opinions about what should stay and what should go. Not to mention that it never hurts to get some buy-in.
Simplify their wardrobe. Despite what the fashion industry wants us to believe, our clothing really only falls into 5 basic categories. When I first started simplifying my family's clothing needs, I came up with the catchy little acronym 'BLAST™':
B for Bottoms
L for Layering Pieces
A for Accessories
S for Socks and Shoes
T for Tops.
The trick is to choose the most versatile pieces as your keepers. These are typically your little one's bottoms and layering pieces. Look for neutrally coloured items, made with soft, natural fibers that work in a variety of settings. Ideally, these pieces will match with almost everything, be comfortable to wear and transition from one season to the next. A quick aside: Keep your castoffs out of the landfill! Shelters and community programs often work directly with families in need and may appreciate receiving clean clothing in good condition for their youngest clients.
While there's no perfect number to a downsized wardrobe, 7-8 everyday outfits, plus a couple sets of pyjamas could be enough for most kids each season. This number covers a week's worth of clothing if a couple items are clean enough to be worn twice if required. Special occasion clothing can be purchased (or even better, borrowed) as events come up.
Let loose and break the rules. Yes, the most practical items tend to be monochromatic, neutral, and simple. But let kids be kids! Give them space to express themselves by letting them pick out a few of their own statement items. That funky sweater with the ice cream cones all over it. Why not? That graphic tee? You know he's Mr. Handsome, so let his shirt say it, too! There'll be plenty of time for a more serious wardrobe once they hit adulthood.
My tip? Go with crazy tops rather than bottoms—they're much easier to match. Accessories, shoes, and socks are also an excellent place for your kids to express their personalities. Fashion should be ethical and eco-conscious, but it should also be fun!
Resetting your mindset. Allowing the tots to pick out their own outfits each day might mean giving up some of your control-freak tendencies. They won’t always look picture-perfect, and it might take longer. But give it a try and watch their self-esteem and independence flourish. If you aren't ready to jump head in first, start by limiting their options to a single BLAST category (i.e., only letting them choose their tops). If this works out, add more choices over time and test out a day of the week where they get to pick their entire outfit by themselves. To keep things moving along, remember to provide options appropriate for your child's motor skills. For example, pullovers might be easier for preschoolers, while kindergartners can manage zippers and buttons. They might surprise you at how quickly they take to this. And bonus: once your kids have this down, it'll be one less mom-task on your plate.
Now, where did you put that cup of coffee again?
Rola Amer is the founder of Choulala Box and the BLAST™ method that simplifies fashion for kids so that they can self-dress to self-express. Rola is passionate about empowering kids in using fashion as a vehicle to help them gain early independence and build confidence. Rola lives in Montreal, Quebec with her husband and two children, Adam, 7 years old and Nia, 3 years old. Choulala Box and the BLAST™ method were selected as one of the Top Mom-Invented Products by Red Tricycle’s Editors and 2019 recipient of the National Parenting Product Award (NAPPA). Follow her on Instagram @choulalabox or Facebook @ChouLaLaBox or visit her site at www.choulalabox.com