Should I let my toddler wear whatever she wants?

While it may not be fashionable, take comfort in knowing that your toddler’s new found love for mixing fashion is a sign of an important developmental milestone -- an emerging sense of self. Toddlers know what they want (and don’t want) and they have the words to communicate it! Giving toddlers the opportunity to make their own choices can help build confidence and self-esteem, and letting them choose what they want to wear is a great, safe way to practice decision-making and independence. Having mismatched clothes–while a fashion faux pas–will not harm your toddler’s development. If you do not feel comfortable letting your child have creative control over their wardrobe, you can always offer your child a choice between two outfits. This still allows your toddler to demonstrate autonomy while taking cringe-worthy outfits off the table.

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

Child Development Expert

Jennie Ito is a mother of two and a child development consultant who specializes in children’s play and toys. Before becoming a consultant for LeapFrog, she was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Playing for Keeps” Play Initiative. Jennie earned her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.