How to win the clothes argument with a toddler

Kinderling News & Features

Trying to dress a toddler can be one of the most mind-bending, patience-testing challenges you'll face as a parent.

But hang in there, these tips will help. In a recent Feed Play Love Helpline, listener Sarah asked our resident child expert Chris Minogue how to win the almost unwinnable war of clothing her almost three-year-old son, and Chris had some great, common-sense advice that all parents can use.

Pick your battles

Chris recommends that you pick your battles where possible. 

“Don’t argue about clothes,” she says. “There are so many big things you have to argue about in life, clothes is not one of them.” 

However, she does recognise that clothes are very necessary for daycare, colder months and special occasions, so here are her ideas to manage each situation with limited push back. 

Listen to Chris on Helpline: 

Everyday wear

When it comes to daycare or a regular day at home, take the anxiety out of the morning routine by letting them choose ... to a degree. If they’re going to constantly argue, curate a drawer of clothes where they can choose anything they want to put on. 

“Let him choose anything out of that drawer that he wants to put on, but coincidentally everything in that drawer matches,” Chris suggests. 

That way, you can also ensure that weather-appropriate clothes are in there too. 

Seasonal dressing

If your child does insist on picking unsuitable clothes, Chris says it won't take them long to realise Mum or Dad was right.

She shares this example, when she was on a plane with a family: During the trip, the child undressed itself and would not put any clothes on. They were landing in a Northern Hemisphere winter. When they walked out the door of the airport and then back in, they managed to put the clothes on with no argument. 

“Sometimes you have to let them go a little bit for them to work it out,” Chris says. 

Special occasions

If it is an event where you want them dressed in something specific, Chris says to do it early. 

A toddler usually argues when you’re disrupting an activity. They’re in a play moment, doing something else, and they have a conniption because they don’t want to leave it. To avoid this, get dressed at the very start of the day, or at least as early as possible. 

“As soon as he gets out of bed, take his pyjamas off and put his clothes on, because then he doesn’t argue about it,” Chris says.

Then you just have to make sure you provide them with plenty of options for non-messy play, so their special clothes stay clean.

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website

Have a question of your own? Get in touch with Chris on Helpline, and tune in Fridays at 11.30am.