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10 Ways To Get Your Toddler To Wear Clothes Willingly (For The Most Part)

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You have to admit, a clothing optional lifestyle does sound sort of appealing. Think about it. No need to follow demanding fashion trends, no photo-ruining muffin-tops to contend with. No wonder toddlers prefer to live in the buff. Friction-free movement all the time! But society dictates we keep them (and preferably ourselves) clothed. The trouble? It can be a battle. But how do you get your toddler to wear clothes?

Thankfully, there are some ways to convince your tot to suit up. The main thing to keep in mind with all of these suggestions? Dr. Dyan Hes says you'll do yourself a huge favor by minimizing your child's choices.

"Infants and toddlers do best with solid information," Hes tells Romper. "Too many options is overwhelming." As it turns out, telling your child what to wear (or eat or do or say) can actually be reassuring to your little one and help them feel secure. So they look a little bizarre dressed in rainboots on a sweltering hot summer day. That's just fine, says Hes. "If they get hot and sweaty they'll realize wearing rain boots on a hot day isn't a good choice in the future," he points out.

Another important factor to be aware of, says Hes, is that some kids have sensory issues and strong reactions to fabrics and textures can be an early indicator of these. So be observant of your child when you're dressing them, and talk to a pediatrician if there are consistent problems.

To get them out the door on time, here are some other ideas for how to get your kid clothed.

1. Let them choose

Whether you're 3 or 33, having a choice makes you feel like you have some power and authority in a matter. So let your child choose their look. And if you don’t want them dashing off to daycare in a tutu, limit the choices. For instance, select two outfits and tell them they can pick which one to wear. You’ve pre-approved both, so whatever they select, it’s a win-win for you both.

2. Make it a game

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Toddlers love to compete, so turn getting dressed into a fun activity. You could make it a race to see how fast they can get their pants on. Or, tell them if they can pull their shirt on by themselves, you’ll let them select their own socks.

3. Make it a musical event

There’s a reason why Daniel Tiger has a song for everything. Kids love songs! They help them learn new lessons and remember important ones. So why not come up with your own little ditty for getting dressed. You might be surprised to hear your child singing it on their own later on.

4. Dangle a carrot

Not to promote bribery or anything, but in the middle of an all-out clothing tantrum, sometimes you gotta dangle a little incentive. It need not be a big prize, nor should it be a sugary sweet. Maybe suggest your child can have 15 minutes of extra playtime if they put on their clothes. Or perhaps they can have a favorite healthy snack, like an applesauce pouch or yogurt covered raisins.

5. Take them shopping

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Make the act of getting dressed fun by allowing your child to pick some of their clothing. A visit to the store where they know they can select two or three items will encourage them to wear their choices and help ease the a.m. dress stress.

6. Distract them

Sometimes you just have to get out the door. Rather than wrestle your 2-year-old into her leggings kicking and screaming, put on a PBS Kids video on your phone. Sure, it’s a screen, but at least it’s a kid-friendly cartoon that will provide you with just enough digital distraction to pull up their pants.

7. Get dressed with them

You're their role model, so show your child how you get dressed each day and make it a team activity. Instead of saying “Time to get dressed,” say, “It’s time for us to get dressed.” Then do each step together. As a bonus, you’ll foster feelings of inclusion while getting ready for the day.

8. Be silly

Fashion is many things: it’s political, it’s powerful, it’s cultural, it’s artistic. And it’s fun. It’s how we express ourselves. And teaching your child to use it as an expression is another way to help them get their dang clothes on each day. You can play with colors and ask them to choose what color makes them happy to wear. Or you can have a dance party while getting dressed.

9. Check that their clothing still fits

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It’s easy for us to nix an itchy sweater or pull off a pair of too snug pants, but it’s different for a child. Especially one that can’t verbalize very well yet. Check to see if their clothing is still fitting correctly before you escalate getting dressed into a battle of wills. Maybe those undies are pinching their little thighs and they really do need a bigger size.

10. Dress them where there's nowhere to run

It might feel easier to get your child dressed in the living room near the front door, but that could mean there’s more opportunity to make a run for it. Corral your kiddo where they can’t get away. For instance, you can get them dressed in a bathroom or have them stand on their changing table.