Playful Parenting Tip #1 - Clothing

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In December, I wrote about how unstructured play makes kids happy.   Each Tuesday in the next two months, I will be sharing how I encourage unstructured play in our home.  This week's playful parenting tip is dress children for play.

Each occupation has a standard of dress.  Lawyers wear suits.  Personal trainers wear gym clothes and sneakers.  Chefs wear hair nets and aprons.  Lifeguards wear swimsuits and sunscreen.  Chemists wear lab coats and protective goggles.  Generally, the jobs where people get dirty, people dress to get dirty.  Lawyers can wear expensive suits because they don't have to worry about mud, paint, or flying food.


One of a child's most important jobs is to play. If you want your child to play freely, you need to dress your child to play freely.  Children cannot play without inhibition if they have worries about mommy being upset with dirty clothes.   They cannot move confidently if they are wearing slippery shoes.  They won't get enough outside play if they don't have weather appropriate clothes.

Unstructured Play Clothing Ideas
-Dress children in clothing that's okay to get dirty and stained.  Stained clothes aren't ruined because those are the perfect clothes to save for messy play days.
-Buy inexpensive or second hand clothes.  Hand me down clothes are even better.  If you didn't pay a fortune for the clothing, it will be easier for you to be comfortable with your child getting dirty.
-If the appearance of stains does bother you, buy patterned and dark clothing.  They hide stains better.
-Dress your child in closed shoes like boots or sneakers for outside play.  A child is more comfortable playing if rocks and sticks aren't bothering his feet.  I think most serious runners would agree that sneakers are the best shoe for running.  If you want your child to run more, put your child in sneakers.
-Save fancy clothes for fancy occasions.  Unless you don't care about the fancy clothes getting soiled from play.
-I don't dress my daughter in a smock for arts and crafts, but if you care about clothes getting dirty from art play, cover her clothes.  Adult size t-shirts are good cover ups or you can buy child size artist's smocks.
-Buy weather appropriate clothing if you live where there is extreme weather, so you can enjoy the outdoors year round.
-In general, my preferred choice of clothing for outside play is long pants and a long shirts even in the summer.  My daughter wears lighter materials in summer and heavier materials in winter.  In summer, the long clothing helps prevent over exposure to sun, bug bites, and scraped skin.
-To prevent dirt being brought into the house by clothing, we change clothes as soon as we come inside or sometimes change them in the garage.  We remove shoes before coming inside the house.  

Don't forget that you need to dress to play too!  I am not advising these dress rules all the time because I know a lot of caregivers take pleasure in buying adorable kids clothing.  These guidelines are useful when your child is participating in unstructured, free play which can be active and messy; therefore, children need to be dressed to support this.

Next Tuesday look for Playful Parenting Tip #2 about toys.  


Amanda said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I am a huge fan of hand-me down and garage sale clothes. We try to save the fancy clothes for the specific occasion, but when they get stained or have some other mishap, they tend to be used as playclothes. These also happen to by my 5 year old's favorite playclothes, so we tend to see her in the same dress for a long time and must wash it overnight so she can wear it again the next day!

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Amanda, such a great idea to use stained fancy clothes for dress up! My daughter and one of her friends love to play dress up with the fancy clothes in her closet. I need to start shopping garage sales for clothes. I have heard it's the cheapest way to acquire clothes.

The Monko said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

great post - I just did a similar one on outdoor clothes for the everyday outdoor challenge.
We dont do fancy clothes in our house, all Goblin's clothes are allowed to get dirty because not a day goes by when he doesn't want to dig in the dirt or paint or do something messy and its easier to just let him than insist he changes first.

Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Just revisiting some old ones and thinking how true this is - I know a lot of friends who just have fancy clothes for their children and one of the reasons they don't do any creative or play outdoors a lot is that they don't want their children to get messy. We have 1 outfit for fancy clothes the rest I expect to get dirty and messy to some extent and it does my washing basket is never empty. I use aprons for art but that is because I know at school when they have to wear a uniform it is encouraged and is something that I think it is good to be in practice for rather than arguing over it when it comes to school age that when they do such and such at home they don't have to. We're having issues with outdoor clothing though people don't seem to think that babies should be outside unless they are in a pram and T at 10 months old is crawling and starting to toddler so wants to be out as much as we do.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Glad you are enjoying some of my older posts, Cerys. We don't have many fancy clothes either. In fact, I rarely have to buy them because she gets them as presents from the grandparents. =) Thankfully, we don't have extreme cold or rain, so I haven't needed to buy special clothes for outdoors, so when she was a baby outdoor clothing wasn't an issue for us. Hopefully, with more parents endorsing outdoor play, clothing companies will notice the need to produce more all weather clothing for small kids.

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