‘The other day, a little girl got abrasions on her neck while at school. She was wearing a dupatta with metallic sequins, and while playing on the slide, another child stepped on it from behind. Thankfully she didn't choke as one of the teachers saw what happened and acted quickly, but she did have bad bruises on her neck. It was an avoidable accident, rued Sheela Rakesh, (name changed), a teacher at a popular school.
Children's clothing is big these days. We are constantly bombarded with subtle and not so subtle messages from every advertising medium to make our kids fashionable. Just the sheer variety can boggle the mind (especially for a reluctant shopper like me). While it is always great to have a choice - and get in touch with your inner fashionista - ask yourself is your child comfortable and safe in the clothes he or she is wearing?
Here are some tips from pre-school teachers on how to choose your child's wardrobe:
1. Cut the fancy stuff:
Admit it - you love the bows, the frills, the buttons and that buckram fabric that gives the perfect finish to those frilly frocks. But those frilly contraptions may be a fashion disaster for your little one. At a wedding once, a toddler cried non-stop. While everyone thought it was the noise and the congregation of people out to pinch her cheeks that were causing her discomfort, it turned out to be the tutu dress that was the culprit. She spent the rest of the wedding in an inner vest and shorts, but the poor kid looked happy. Buckram fabric can cause itching and may grate on the skin. Some synthetic lace can poke skin. Shiny buttons unless securely fastened can be choking hazards. And is satin, nylon, poplin, voile and other synthetic fabrics really suited for our tropical climate?
2. Elastic is the way to ‘go':
Avoid buckles and zippers (especially for boys) if you are keen to make your children go to the bathroom independently, says Sheela Rakesh, who is always looking out for ways to make toilet training easy for kids. Elastic bands on shorts and pants are easiest to undo for little kids. Jeans is another fabric (even with lycra) which is tough to manipulate in the washroom. And of course, any type of tight clothing is best avoided. Once they manage their clothes, they quickly become confident to use the bathroom without any assistance.
3. Let not clothing become a hindrance:
Preschoolers are learning to not only use their minds, but also move their bodies in different ways such as climbing, hopping and jumping; (which is why playtime is so important). Restrictive and tight clothing will slow the development process. Shilpa Prashanth, a Montessori teacher says - many children do not understand that it is the clothes that are coming in the way and it is not their own inability to negotiate the jungle gym, slide or seesaw. A child may want to try a new physical activity, but if he trips and falls the first time, because his clothes got in the way, he may not want to have another try, on another day, even if he is in comfortable clothes. T-shirts and trackpants or cotton leggings work best for school.
4. General safety guidelines for play and school wear:
Avoid hoods, mufflers and scarves as these garments can get stuck in slides, elevators, car/bus doors etc and cause strangulation. If you must buy a hood for a raincoat, look for a detachable hood with Velcro fasteners. And if you want to send your child in a cap during winter, the monkey cap/head and throat warmer (though an ugly invention) remains your best bet.
B. Danglers and accessories:
If a garment comes with drawstrings, it is best to remove them. Let earrings be of the stud variety. Avoid anklets and bangles, especially glass bangles as they will break or get stuck in playground equipment. Small hairclips can be swallowed by toddlers and babies. Special mention to dupattas and capes because these clothing accessories serve no real purpose for little kids but you do have several children's clothes with them. It may be great for a wedding or party (though it may get caught in something even in those places), but to the playground and school it is an absolute no.
Shoes laces can be difficult to re-tie if they come undone and can cause accidents. Buy shoes and sandals with Velcro or slip on sandals like Crocs. Special mention for girls shoes -no hard soles, roman slippers, ballet shoes or fancy chappals which keep slipping off. Remember tender feet need the right kind of protection - fancy feet do not necessarily equate to happy feet.
D. Natural fibres:
Stick to natural breathable fabrics that absorb sweat and thereby lessen the chances of allergies and skin infections.
E. Bags and backpacks:
There have been many articles about school bags being too heavy for children's shoulders. One way to reduce the burden is to invest in a good quality backpack with two backstraps to distribute the weight evenly. Make sure that the bag itself is not heavy. Buy a bag with wide cushioned straps for more comfort.
Always remember several accidents are predictable and preventable! Kids look cute in all clothes, you really don't have to make a great effort to dress up your prince and princess. Safety, comfort and cleanliness come first. Fashion always comes second.
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