Toddler, Dress Thyself

As soon as they were interested in rummaging through their clothes drawers, I’ve encouraged my kids to dress themselves. This is mostly because I’m lazy; why dress my kids when they’ll save me a few minutes doing it themselves, and have more fun in the process?

The other reason is probably the better one: in that encourages their independence and self-thinking in a way that generally acceptable to my prepetually-tired parenting state. As long as everything they can choose, mix & match is already approved by me, there’s only so wrong those choices can go.

Once you’ve made the decision to have your toddlers start dressing themselves, pretty much everything else comes down to execution. I’ve broken out my suggestions into either closet-based or drawer-based systems.


Closet Organization

  • Buy the child-sized hangers ($4). Have as many as you want, but at least five for five days of complete outfits. 20140203-130746.jpg
  • Find some wide child-friendly clips for attaching underclothes and socks to each outfit. When the children were smaller, I used Sock Cops for attaching socks & underwear to each outfit. When they were older and less likely to stick everything in their mouths, I moved to these soft grip clothespins ($9). They’re easier for the kids to open and close on their own.
  • Most closets have only one rod high up. Use the upper level for partial outfits (there’s always something waiting in another load of laundry); party outfits, or other clothing you’d rather not have them rummage through.
  • Use double hanger rod ($8) to put another hanging rod at child’s eye level. Or put some kind of drawers or baskets underneath. Everything accessible at your child’s level should be pre-approved by you, to give them the freedom to choose what they’d like.
  • Hang pull-ups or trainers over “neck” of hanger for pajamas and nap-time clothes.

Drawer Organization

  • Dividers are your friends. I’ve used everything from store-bought drawer dividers to DIY cardboard dividers. 20140203-131447.jpg
  • Figure out how much you have of each category. Divide your drawers appropriately. If there are tons of t-shirts and only a few pants/skirts, make a bigger compartment to accomodate the t-shirts, and so on.
  • Pick one drawer for your child to chose their clothes from. Explain that the other drawers are off-limits. (Use drawer locks, if needed.)
  • For young toddlers, match up three outfits, complete with socks and underwear. Encourage your child to pick a full stack as-is, and to keep the drawer as neat and tidy as possible.
  • For older toddlers that can keep the drawer neat, store like items with like, and let them mix and match their own outfits. Only put in outfits that can be juxtaposed to your satisfaction, or be at peace with the Punky Brewster look. Keep their selection limited to three choices of each t-shirts, skirts/pants, leggings, paired socks, etc.

I always let them attempt to dress themselves, but reserve the right to make any necessary corrections before heading out the door. Oh, and be sure to keep a camera nearby for those memorable moments when the underwear is on their head and a t-shirt on as a skirt.

Some other great tips and ideas:

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