We’ve all been there; that moment when our child just doesn’t want to change out of their pajamas or pretend play clothing. As adults, we often dress according to what we are doing on any given day. We look to our social brain to determine what is comfortable and appropriate based on past interactions we have had with others, the weather we are expecting throughout the day and what others often expect of us. Children are generally more open to their own ideas of what is appropriate to wear at home and out in public. It is definitely OK for a child to choose to dress like a princess, superhero, and favorite animal or in all of their favorite colors and head out for shopping at the local grocery store.
As adults, we tend to steer children away from their originality when it comes to dressing, as we may fear others will look at us in the wrong way or flat out tell us our children should not dress in such a way. Be your child’s hero, don’t worry about others’ opinions and encourage your child to express their individuality through their imaginative dress. Take a child shopping, to a ball game or an appointment dressed in their favorite outfit and encourage them to be themselves.
It is very important to allow children to make choices as a part of their daily routine. Playing dress-up or allowing them to choose the clothing they wish to wear offers them independence and some control over things in their life. Children are looking to add their own ideas to daily interactions and pretend play gives them a great ability to do so. Just imagine what it feels like to put on a pair of pajamas, toss a towel over the shoulder and fly into the living room to save the day.
Children can achieve a great sense of pride and accomplishment when they are allowed to express their creativity through choices they can make as part of their ever-increasing independence. Just think, offering a child the chance to choose their own clothing usually leads to them dressing themselves without tears or misbehavior. In the long run, what we really want as parents is for our children to dress themselves and avoid the frustration of forcing them to get their clothes on in a timely manner.
Giving children the ability to make choices will create an atmosphere of cooperation and independence that will be beneficial for the entire family. There will obviously be times when a child will not be able to “dress up” or choose to wear silly clothes, but they can still be offered choices that will empower them without stifling their sense of self and creativity. For example, allow children to choose between two shirts or two pairs of pants, making the choices presented acceptable no matter which they choose. Maybe allow them to choose the socks and underwear they will wear regardless of their outer dress. Just remember to allow two choices you are always OK with when they need to dress in an appropriate fashion that does not allow for as much freedom of choice.
At times, children will have to dress to a certain level of appropriateness, but the idea of offering choices does not have to end. When you offer a choice, you are encouraging independence and increasing a child’s sense of well-being as they learn to navigate and manage their environment. One of the best things a parent can do is to encourage their child to be themselves through self-expression.
Source: Michigan State University Extension