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At what age should a child pick out their own clothes?

For the longest time, picking out what my son would put on for the day was part of my morning routine. When you have been doing the same thing for over two years, it becomes second nature and you don't even have to think about it. I could always count on myself to make sure that he's always dressed appropriately for the weather, and that he'll always look super cute every time he stepped out of the house. 

Problem is, they grow up too fast. Whether you like it or not, there will come a time when you'll inevitably have to relinquish some of this control and let them pick what they want to wear to the park or daycare. It is an important rite of passage that gives your little one some control over their lives. 

So, when exactly is this time and how should you make the transition? If you are like most parents, you probably have no idea. Well, this article will let you know when the best time is to do it, as well as outlining a few reasons why you should let your child pick out their own clothes.  

When should you start letting them choose their own clothes? 

By the time they turn 3, most toddlers can handle the basics of getting dressed. At this age, they are capable of picking out the outfits they like, although you probably won't like what they choose! You might notice your child getting a little choosy when it comes to what they put on. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until they turn 4 or 5 before letting them have complete autonomy in choosing the clothes they get to put on. Clashing colors might still be an issue, though, so be warned!

At the end of the day, though, the "right" age is relative to the child. Before your child can pick out their own clothes, you'll need to arm them with basic decision making and logic skills. They will also need some knowledge of colors as well as basic observational skills.

Pay attention to your child. Don't make them pick out their own clothes if they are not ready to. Everyone gets to eventually pick their own clothes someday, so just be patient and consistent with them and it'll happen. 

Why should you let your child pick out their clothes?

Here are a few reasons why giving your child the chance to put an outfit together is a good idea:

1. Clothes are a form of self-expression

Your style is a reflection of your personality. Just like you might choose an outfit that shows your support for your favorite band or a certain cause, children can also use clothes to express themselves.

As your child grows, they start to discover their favorite shows, colors, and songs. Letting them pick out clothes gives them the opportunity to express how they feel, contributing to their growth in the long run.

2. Your child will feel more confident

Letting your child pick out their clothes will make them feel proud of themselves. They'll see it as an achievement. If your child feels insecure about an outfit they have chosen, support them, and show them that you approve. This will go a long way in helping them believe in themselves and wear what they have chosen with pride going forward. 

3. Comfort

Your little one will be more at ease in something they have picked out for themselves. Toddlers have some sense of individuality and already have some idea of what they like and what they don't like. If you try to dictate what they should put on, you are probably going to get a tantrum out of it.

4. A sense of responsibility

Going from having everything done for them to choosing their own clothes is a big step. This small task will help in building your child's sense of responsibility.

Consider also letting them pick out a few clothes while shopping. Slowly let them pick out an item or two while also teaching them a few basic budgeting skills. This way, when they're old enough to go shopping on their own, you can count on them to make well-thought-out purchases.

5. It's fun

Shopping for cute clothes with your little one is a lot of fun for both of you. It is a great way to get a lot of insight into your child's color and style preferences. Your child will also see what you pick up for yourself and get to know your style. Plus, it's just an all-round wonderful bonding experience! 

Tips and tricks for when your child wants to choose their clothes

Here are a few things you can do to make the process of picking out the right clothes easier for your child:

Give options

One of the first things you should do is to give your child options to choose from. Instead of letting them have an entire closet to select from, start by asking for their opinion on two or three different items. For example, you could ask them something like "Do you want to wear a tracksuit or jeans today?”

Use your words

Try to explain to them what certain aspects of choosing clothes entail. You can even do this by giving explanations with help from household items. For example, you can use a paint set to show them how to match colors, or you can use a thermometer to show them that once the mark is below a certain point, they have to dress warmly. 

Allow taste

You should understand that your child is getting to know themselves and they are steadily developing a personality. As you shop, you can let them make simple decisions like choosing a printed T-shirt or a pair of shorts.

Be patient

The first time you let your little one pick out their own outfit, it will probably be a mess. When this happens, patiently explain to them why they can't wear that. Also, don't rush your child into picking their outfits if they feel like they're not ready.


Unless you are going to an event or a place that requires a dress code, you can allow your child to choose what they'll wear from day-to-day. With time, they'll know what they like and how to pair outfits better.

Final Thoughts

You have no reason to worry when it comes to letting your child pick out the clothes they like. The worst that can happen is a few disapproving looks from people whose opinions don't matter anyway, so as long as your child is confident, they'll be just fine. 

Personally, I came to realize just how big a deal choosing his own outfit was for my son. While I was a little resistant at first, I have found that it is an important milestone that if handled correctly, can go a long way in helping your little one become more independent-minded.

With the tips outlined here, letting your own toddler pick out their own clothes and making this transition shouldn't be a problem. Good luck! 

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