Tips for Kids with Clothing Sensitivities | Still Playing School

Tips for Kids with Clothing Sensitivities

By Devany | Labels: ,
All children have sensory needs. Our four year old daughter has clothing sensitivities which we handle with an understanding and patient approach. From our experience in dealing with a child who is picky about clothes here are our Tips for Kids with Clothing Sensitivities.

To celebrate the launch of Project Sensory, Lemon Lime Adventures has organized a series on Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors. Different parents will write about varying sensory experiences that their child either seeks or struggles with as we debunk what is behavioral and what is sensory related. 

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Some of my favorite posts from the series so far have been How Can I Help My Hyperactive Child?  and Why Does the Vacuum Scare My Child? because both hyperactivity and fear of loud noises are other sensory issues we deal with daily as well! Did you know there are eight sensory systems? I've already learned so much from this series and I know you will too!

Our preschool daughter  is very particular about what she wears. This began last year  when she was three years old. At first I thought she was being picky and tried to desensitize her to the clothing she didn't like. I would ask her to wear it until lunch, hoping she'd forget about it, but she would either be fighting back tears until I let her change or she would tough it out and remember exactly at lunchtime that I promised she could put different clothing on. Wow, was she being stubborn? Did she need to be grateful and learn to wear what we picked out? Or was something larger going on here?

My first clue into the truth behind what might be happening with our daughter's clothing sensitivities was during a conversation with my husband. He admitted that he didn't wear jeans as a child because they made his knees feel wet. What is pretty hilarious now, as an adult, was distressing for him as a child. The sensation of denim made it difficult for him to concentrate on anything else. Don't we want her to be able to learn, play, and grow to her fullest right now? Does it actually matter what she is wearing while she does so? The following is what we've begun to do and what I now recommend (as an early childhood educator and  a mom) if your child has sensory clothing sensitivities.

- Know Your Child's Preferences 

Clothing sensitivities can be very individual. We sometimes hear of common patterns but what bothers one person might not bother another. When E refused to wear three identical pairs of fleece pants that I bought her last winter she asked if I was mad.

"I'm not mad," I replied. "But if you aren't going to wear something you have to be able to tell me why."

Our daughter is verbal so we always ask her to try to explain what is bothering her about the clothing. Sometimes the inside of the new pants are "too soft" or the applique of her shirt can be felt from the inside. If your child is non-verbal you can watch for clues for clothing sensitivities such as pulling at socks or biting long sleeves.

- Within Reason, Let Your Child Take the Lead

I let go of a lot of stress for both myself and my child when I decided to stop fighting her to wear clothing that bothered her. Within reason, I urge you to do the same!

Consider when you can give in and when you absolutely can't budge. Even if your child is choosing clothing that is too cold or hot for the current weather, I suggest bringing along the back up clothes they may choose to wear when you are out but don't engage in a power struggle. Yes, I don't believe in letting them "learn the hard way," because they are children that can't comprehend the consequences of their actions that far in advance. I personally can't stand wearing a hot, restricting coat even when it is frigid so I crank the heat in the car and wear layers! As adults we have preferences that we can adapt to our environment but children often have so little control. What they wear is one thing they can (again, within reason) choose if we allow them the responsibility and guidance to do so.

Exceptions which I wouldn't be able to compromise on would be long bus stop waits or playing in the snow. I always insist that our kids wear sneakers if they want to run outside for safety reasons. Be sure to communicate with teachers if your child attends school to see what is expected attire at recess.

- Explain to Potential Gift Givers

When your child receives clothing that they won't wear as a gift everyone involved is frustrated. Tell well meaning gift givers in advance that clothing is a difficult item to buy for your child. If they insist on picking out clothing, ask for receipts to be included for easy returns.

- Adapt Clothing

Once you know exactly what about the clothing is bothersome to your child, think about how you can adapt what you already own to suit their needs. We have cut feet off of pajamas because E didn't like the anti-skid traction on the bottom (and the pajamas still look super cute on her)! You might remove tags, ask your child to wear socks inside out (to avoid seams), or cut off unnecessary buttons or strings.

- Experiment with Laundry 

We wash our clothing (and bedding) in detergent with no scent (look for the words all, free, and clear). Some parents of children with clothing sensitivities swear by fabric softener but in our house we don't use it. This seems backward, right? Well, softeners can wear down clothing faster, cause pilling, and add unnecessary (and irritating) chemicals and scents to your clothes.

- Brainstorm Solutions

Talk to other parents and your child about other possible solutions. Can you wear layers in cooler weather instead of a puffy jacket? Would stockings eliminate the "too tall or too short" socks delimma? Might a tight fitting lycra undergarment as a layer of protection from sensory irritating clothes help your child? Feel free to post in the comments what has (and hasn't!) worked for you!

- Pick Out Clothes Before Bed

E  sleeps a lot better when we pick out clothes for the next day the night before at bedtime. It also makes our mornings much smoother. When we are tired and rushed to get out the door we argue more about clothing decisions. If we've agreed ahead of time on an outfit we have less stress for both of us in the morning.

- Try Heavy Work 
Try heavy work before getting dressed to calm, soothe, and prep your child.

For more ways to soothe a child with sensory needs (and all children have them!) be sure to visit Lemon Lime Adventures and Project Sensory

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  1. Some great tips!
    In our house our youngest is very picky about what he will wear. There have been quite a few gifts that just don't get worn; having that gift receipt so we can exchange it is a big help!

  2. My son dislikes pants greatly hates jeans and suits an slacks. he either wants pajamas or only one special green knee high pants or his jumpsuit .thats all or he won't go outside.

  3. Im so glad i have found this i thought mydaughter was just being piccie because sje wanted to wear her favourite coloured tshirt. But reading this i can 100% relate. Doesnt like socks but the doesdnt like shoes with out socks?. Wen i by an item before i put the away i have to cut every tag out:-D

  4. My second son has clothing sensitivity. He doesn't like pants to touch his shoes so I folded them over some elastic to make them jogger style. For his "too itchy" sweater he wears a long shirt underneath. He only likes soft pants aka sweat pants. We compromise with extra soft cottons and when I patch the knees (the soft thinner fabric wears so much faster) I patch the inside with a soft flannel. I had lots of clothing things when I was a kid that I have out grown but I can remember how upsetting they were then and I don't mind working with him on his