Minimize wardrobe fights by letting toddlers choose the night before…and wear to bed!

alarmclock.jpgSeveral folks have written in about putting their kids to bed in the next day’s clothes. Generally, it has been a time-saving strategy, but in Nicole’s case, it also keeps the toddler rebellion to a minimum:

A little before my son turned two he was having a hard time getting dressed in the morning. We fought about which pair of underwear, shirt, and shorts he would wear. It made getting out the door for any activity horribly stressful and turned our home into a battleground.

To minimize morning arguments, in the evening after his shower, we let him choose a t-shirt to wear to bed with his pull-up instead of bothering with pajamas. We’re in less of a hurry at night and he’s in a good mood from his shower (instead of morning wake up grouchies!) so shirt selection is less of an issue. Lately he’s started wearing undies over the pull-up too.

Now, in the morning, he just slips off the pull-up, goes potty, and the underwear come back on for the day. I don’t have to wash pajamas anymore and we can get out the door much more quickly. We still have issues selecting shorts but it’s only one choice instead of three so it’s something!

To deal with church clothes (since he can’t sleep in those) I just lay them out the night before on his chair and he knows church attire is non-negotiable. We all dress up and there’s no getting around that. It’s only one day a week and he knows that when he gets home he can switch back to play clothes – and yes he starts stripping the minute he crosses the threshold!

More: Clothing/getting dressed tips


  1. Bev says

    Let them choose between 2 acceptable choices, this works in lots of situations, do you want orange juice or apple juice, blue t-shirt or red t-shirt, etc. They think they are in charge, but you have pre-selected 2 acceptable options.

  2. says

    What has totally eliminated all difficulty in the morning is when I do laundry, I assemble “packets” of clothing. Lay the shirt face down on the table, put matching pants on top with the waist at the neckline, and put matching socks and panties on the pile. Fold the shirt in half (which folds the pants etc inside), then fold the pant legs on top, then take the arms and fold them across. Now it’s a little package of clothing and you can see half of the front of the shirt. The color of the socks and undies are always a surprise to the kids until opened.

    I neatly put each package in one drawer per kid. All drawers except the one are off limits (full of “unpackaged” clothing) and that one drawer is only for me to open. In the morning, I open the drawer and the kid can choose from what they can see see. No digging, no opening packages, no nothing. It’s usually 3-4 visible outfits and they stare in for a few seconds, pick one out, and open it up. They get excited about what is hidden inside. Who would have thought a surprise of penguin socks could make a kids day?

    Church clothes have the same routine, but they’re on hangers with surprise undies and tights hiding inside.

    Granted my kids are young, but I think as they hit elementary school this will still continue to some extent. I think it helps them make fairly quick, usually rational decisions int he morning by offering only 3-4 choices instead of hundreds of possible combinations across the shirts, sweaters, skirts, socks, etc.

  3. Jayme says

    I let my daughter choose a color for that day. Then I grab 2 or 3 shirts of that color. She gets to choose from those, I choose pants to match. Then I open her sock/underwear drawer and let her pick from what’s available.

    Like Bev said above, I’ve found that offering her a choice between two options that are acceptable to me has made a huge difference and saves a lot of arguments. It makes her feel like she has some control over things. =)

  4. says

    Big fan of that. We’ve done that here. Got somewhere to be early AM…bath, outfit, sleep, then all he has to do is wake up and eat!

  5. Monique says

    I’m actually the one in charge, so I get to choose what she wears, what she eats, where she goes, and when. She’s 3.5 now, I’ve let her know what sort of responsibilities AND privileges to expect when she turns 4. She’s SO excited about her upcoming birthday. It’s for her own protection that I’m in charge and every teachable moment, I let her know why.

  6. says

    I “package” my clothes just like chris does, excpet w/o socks and undies. And I “package” every piece of clothing together as it comes out of the dryer, so I am not doing extra work later. But, I looove the “suprise” socks and undies idea. kind of fun!

  7. says

    Asha, My lovely husband lost his camera on a jobsite last week so he stole mine, which in turn he left on another jobsite. I’m off to find a hot pink camera that would be far too humiliating for him to take. I will send them as soon as possible. The clothes trick has been a sanity saver.

  8. Coco says

    I’ve heard of this done with seniors in facilities where they keep pj’s on under their clothes so it makes it easier to put the people to bed. It’s actually a form of elder abuse. Yes, it’s a hard job changing clothing (for caregivers of seniors AND children), but it’s a job that needs to be done. Tantrums or no tantrums. It’s what the caregivers are being paid for, and it’s what parents have signed up for in having children. I don’t consider this a hack at all, but an easy way out that is condoning bad habits. My 4 kids go to bed in pajamas and get up and put fresh clothes on. No bad habits to break later. Just my personal opinion y’all! :)

  9. says

    I’d hardly say that putting a clean kid to bed in pajamas is abuse. Nursing homes that do that are cutting corners on hygiene and diligent care, so that’s how it gets classed as abuse.

    That being said, our job as parents is to help prepare the child for the next stage of their lives. While dressing the night before is certainly easier, there is no logical progression to the next steps in self care. At some point they will require morning showers and have to learn from scratch how to dress in the morning.

  10. Alex says

    That’s my secret weapon for unusually early mornings! A PJ shirt that is OK for day use too, with some overalls thrown over in the morning.

    Re: other posters–Offering choices promotes language development and color recognition. Besdies, you really DON’T need to throw your weight around on this issue to get a functional kid. I was recently at a radical unschooling conference, with a huge bunch of people who never force their kids to do things re: getting dressed, and the kids were all dressed. Their clothes mostly matched, appeared clean, etc. The teens looked like normal teens.

  11. says

    My oldest infrequently wets the bed. She’s 6, it happens now & again, and I don’t want to wash clothes, sheets, and then also find a new shirt to wear the next day. I give her two choices, “THIS OR THAT” and we move on. She may fight me and want something other than “THIS OR THAT” but then I say, “Well, since you didn’t want this or that, I guess you’re going to school naked.” She ‘humpfs’ for a minute then snatches a shirt. I did actually walk her out the front door in her underwear one day. The minute her foot touched the porch, she turned around & put on the clothes I’d give her. :)

  12. says

    To those of you concerned that clothing choice is a parental leadership issue, I’d like to respectfully suggest that different kids require different handling. I happen to have one of them, and our family lives and dies by the phrase “choose your battles.”

  13. Coco says

    Asha, of course, but we’re all entitled to our opinions aren’t we? It seems people are often accused of ‘throwing their weight around’ etc. when their opinion doesn’t quite fit in with the majority. 2 of my kids have very special needs and yes, they all require different handling. My opinion remains, however, the same. And I think I’m entitled to it just like all the people here who agree with the hack. Thanks! :)

  14. says

    I used to do the clothes packet thing when my boys were younger. I rolled a pair of pants, T-shirt, and/or shirt into logs and stick them into a shoe cubby in the closet. Whenever they needed clean clothes, they just grabbed a log. Ironically, we never had issues with clothing selection — I just did it because it kept the closet neat!