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Why I’m letting my child choose their own clothes

Turns out there's more to style than matching your socks to your shirt.

letting your child choose their own clothes
Criene/Twenty20

My daughter Lizzie, who happens to have autism, has always had her own sense of style. From a very early age she showed strong opinions about what she wanted to wear. When it was hot, she dressed in layers. When it was cold, she dressed in short sleeves. She put plaids with polka dots and red with pink.


When I first found out I was pregnant with a girl, I went overboard with the clothes. During my pregnancy, I bought adorable outfits with matching everything—matching socks, matching shoes, matching bonnets, matching bows. Before she was even born, she had a closet full of enough pink and purple to last her through the first two years of her life. I loved opening that closet and sifting through the clothes, while dreaming up fun activities she and I would do together.

By the time she started kindergarten, she began to fight whatever I had planned for her to wear. She would throw the clothes down on the ground, and then throw herself on the ground in adamant protest. "Maybe she doesn't understand," I thought, "I just need to teach her the art of matching." I tried pairing all her outfits together in her closet—matching shirt, skirt and socks all on the same hanger. I made a special dressing area for her and hung each day's outfit by the mirror for her so she could easily put on her own clothes each morning.

But every morning, she would go back into her closet and play a game of mix and match. Two differently colored socks. Button-down shirts with sweatpants. Her style, her way. By this time, Lizzie was showing signs that she would have a different path to "fitting in" socially, and I worried her clothing choices would make her stand out even more.

So for this reason, I was more excited than any mom about "Wacky Dress Day" at school. This day was made for her! Finally, she would fit in and look like the rest of the kids as she walked to school and up and down the halls. I waited in anticipation to see what she would come up with, and hoped today would be one of her wildest, wackiest style days.

When she walked out of her room, my jaw dropped. She had put together a perfectly matching outfit from head to toe!

After dropping her off at school in her matching outfit, I stood chatting with some of the other moms. I shared how this Wacky Dress Day seemed like it was tailor-made for Lizzie, but she totally ignored it. All I wanted was for her to fit in.

One of the other moms politely suggested, "Well, maybe she isn't being difficult or ignoring the day. Maybe what we think is matching is actually wacky to her and vice versa." This was a light bulb moment for me.

Doing things differently is not wrong. Thinking differently is not wrong. The way she was dressing had nothing to do with me at all. She was expressing herself in her own way… in a way that made her feel beautiful. And who was I to keep her from being true to herself? She didn't need to fit in, because she was born to shine.

I began to expand this view to other areas of her life, trying to understand the intention behind her every action. She is different and beautiful and smart just as she is. And not only that, but if we slow down to really listen, her different view can expand and complement our "typical" thinking in ways that will challenge and change our world.

After that day, we let Lizzie be Lizzie, and we celebrated her unique style. We even encouraged her offbeat clothing choices. She shines brightly because she is celebrated and loved exactly as she is.


Clothes and dress-up pieces that let your child's light shine

Soft silver crown

This beautiful silver crown is made to last and fits any child prince or princess. It has an elastic strap for a secure fit, and is adorned with sparkling silver jewels.

$5

Frida tshirt

Inspired by the artist who's synonymous with bold, beautiful self expression, this super-soft tee for boys and girls bears an appliqued likeness of Frida Kahlo made from 100% recycled felts.

$36

Dragon cloak

Made to last and designed to be worn well beyond Halloween, this detailed dragon cloak lets your child slip into a powerful identity of their own imagination.

$30

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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