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How to Choose Clothes for a Child

Toddler Clothing

Overalls with adjustable straps are ideal for you toddlers because they make changing easy.
Overalls with adjustable straps are ideal for you toddlers because they make changing easy.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

A toddlers begin to move around you will need clothes that are more durable. Here you will find advice on clothes through the third year.

Six to Twelve Months

It is very important for your baby to have functional clothes at this age so his explorations and movements aren't inhibited. Your shopping list should include overalls with snap crotches, tops, undershirts (dependent on the climate), a jacket, a sweater, and footed sleepwear or nightgowns.



For daytime, bright T-shirts with shoulder snaps and straight-cut overalls with adjustable straps are ideal. Pants with elasticized waists are too constricting on a baby's abdomen. Make sure overalls have reinforcement where the straps join the bib and in the crotch snap area. You can sew on knee pads with foam or cotton stuffing to protect your baby's knees on outdoor crawling expeditions. Dresses are fine once the baby can walk but only frustrate a crawling baby, since her knees pin the dress to the floor and prevent forward movement.

Sweaters and jackets:

The easiest sweaters to put on are those that slip over the head and zip in the back. Make sure any sweater you buy is machine washable. Jackets that zip or snap in the front are best. If you need to buy a snowsuit, buy one in two pieces, so you can use just the jacket in warmer weather.


During this period, your baby is likely to grow out of one-piece footed sleepwear, although blanket sleepers may still fit. Two-piece pajamas that snap together at the waist work well because they have more than one layer of snaps for adjustability. Gowns are another suitable choice, since they, too, allow for growth. The same flame-retardant standards that apply to infant sleepwear also apply to sleepwear for this age group.

One to Three Years

Once your child begins to walk, you'll add shoes and boots to his wardrobe. You'll also buy a raincoat. As your child gets toward the toilet-training age, you'll need to buy underpants.

Daywear: Separate tops and bottoms are good choices for the toddler who is walking and one who is learning to use the toilet. You may find that as the toddler grows taller, you need to replace tops more frequently.

And as the toddler moves from diapers to underwear, you may find that the pants that were too tight over the diaper now provide ample room. Both dresses and pull-on pants make toilet training easier and encourage the toddler's independence. Avoid back-zipped jumpsuits during toilet training, as these can be frustrating to both you and your toddler.

When your toddler is learning to dress himself, make sure the clothing you choose is easy for him to put on and take off. Clothing sizes vary among manufacturers, so labeled sizes may not be a reliable guide. Cotton has a tendency to shrink, so keep this in mind when you purchase clothing.

In addition to clothing, appropriate hats for rain, snow, and sun are important elements of your toddler's wardrobe.

Coats and winter wear: A machine-washable coat with a drawstring hood is most practical. Those with large buttons or loops and toggle buttons are excellent because eventually your child will be able to manage these herself. Make sure coats are not so bulky that your child can't move in them. Actually, a few thin layers are more comfortable and just as warm without the bulk.

For very small toddlers, buy thumbless (whole-hand) mittens; they're warmer than gloves. Older toddlers prefer mittens with thumbs for increased dexterity. Mittens that have a connecting string that gets threaded through the sleeves of a coat are a good idea. Suspender clips to attach mittens to coats have pinching potential (the mittens usually get lost anyway). In any case, buy two pairs of mittens in the same style since it's likely at least one mitten will get lost.

Never allow a preschooler to wear a long scarf since it poses a strangulation risk should it get caught on something as the child moves by.

Rainwear: Old-fashioned yellow raincoats with hoods and ponchos with hoods are good at this age. The old-style clasp latches are much more manageable for tots than zippers. Don't buy vinyl coats; they tear quickly, especially under the arms and at the snaps. When you fit the coat, get it large enough that your child can wear it over a winter coat if necessary.

Galoshes are a favorite with young children, probably because they are one of the few kinds of shoes they can put on by themselves. Buy the kind that are worn without shoes, preferably with an inner lining and a waterproof fabric neck that ties with a drawstring. These are very practical for the mud and puddle stomping that is a natural act of tots.

Never buy a child-size umbrella; the sharp points can be dangerous, and the opening mechanism can pinch a small child.


Training pants and pull-up diapers are optional. Let your child graduate into regular cotton underpants when training time comes. Cotton underwear is best because it allows breathing that synthetics do not. Unless you live in a cold climate or house, undershirts aren't necessary.

Shoes will be a priority once your child learns how to walk.
Shoes will be a priority once your child learns how to walk.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Socks and shoes:

You don't need to have shoes for your baby before he can walk. In fact, small babies are better off barefoot since they get a lot of sensory input through their feet. Also, feet have natural nonskid surfaces, and toes can grasp as your baby pulls himself up. Before your baby walks, you may want to buy shoes only for protection, and inexpensive sneakers or leather moccasins do the job.

When your baby is just starting to walk, lighter leather shoes are probably better -- he's less likely to trip. Later on it makes little difference whether you choose leather shoes or sneakers. If, however, your child has a problem with foot perspiration, you should keep in mind that leather breathes better. Sneakers and athletic shoes are generally made of synthetic materials, which may keep your child's feet moist.

If you fit your baby's shoes yourself, allow half an inch between the big toe and the end of the shoe. Test this while your child is standing. The shoe should fit firmly against the back of the foot with no gaps. Make sure the sides of the shoe are low enough not to rub against the ankle bone. Avoid artificial arches and raised heels. Look for shoes with nonskid bottoms. Keep in mind that buckles or Velcro closures are much easier for a child than laces.

Once your baby is walking, you'll need to buy new shoes every four to six months, which gets fairly expensive no matter how much you spend. Though expensive shoes are not necessarily better, children's shoe stores stock the hard-to-find sizes, and you will have to go to one (and probably pay more) if you can't fit your child in a self-service store. If your child is easy to fit, you can get away with sturdy sneakers, which provide traction for climbing and running, unless your doctor says otherwise.

An oxford-style shoe provides more toe room than other styles. Mary Janes and other dress styles are good for special occasions but not all the time because they constrict the toes and are often stiff.

You need to pay attention to socks, too, since a sock that is too tight is just as bad as a shoe that is too small. To absorb moisture, choose cotton socks. If you buy all socks in the same color and weave, you'll have less difficulty matching them up when they come out of the wash. Tights are an option for girls. Cotton tights are warmer, thicker, and less likely to run than are nylon tights.

The biggest challenge when buying clothes for your child is finding clothes that will be easy, comfortable, and fit your child's ever-changing size. If you follow our simple guidelines, your child will have a functional wardrobe for all seasons.

©Publications International, Ltd.

About the Consultant:

Alvin Eden, M.D.:

Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York. He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and Growing Up Thin.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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