Play clothes: a different perspective. One day last summer, I sat with my child atop a very tall climbing structure at a playground in France. Another family walked into the park, their daughter dressed in the most beautiful white dress–full of frills and lace and all things dainty. That little girl proceeded to plop right down in the sand and start digging. These were clearly her play clothes (and not caring one bit about how others defined them). Then, she started rolling around with her brother. She laughed. She was happy, moving freely and joyfully.
From my bird’s eye view, I thought about how if you walk through any children’s clothing store, you’re likely to see it divided into two sections. I’m not talking about the “boys” and “girls” sections, although those exist, too. (That said, you’re just as likely to see my daughter checking out dinosaur shirts as frilly dresses, thank you very much.) More specifically, I’m talking about play clothes versus so-called fancy clothes.
For children, all clothes are play clothes.
The little girl at the playground wasn’t wearing costume dress-up clothes. Her dress was legitimately nice. She looked like she might’ve been the flower girl at a wedding only moments earlier. Her mom, sitting nearby, didn’t bat an eye. She didn’t tell her daughter to be careful, or beware of the mud, or stay out of the dirt. She just let her play.
It was a beautiful parenting moment to observe. The girl played freely and with reckless abandon in her dainty white dress.
I imagined the self-love and acceptance this approach would foster if kids were allowed to worry less about things that don’t matter to them.
What are play clothes, anyway?
They’re the lower price tags versus the higher ones. The ones built to stretch and reach versus the ones built to put our children on the covers of magazines. The thing is, our kids are going to outgrow the ones marketed for “everyday wear” just as quickly as they outgrow every single other item of clothing that we’ve purchased or
have been gifted.
Wisdom tells adults that we shouldn’t save the fancy silverware for special occasions, but instead, to use it daily because every day is special. I’d like us to extend this gift to enjoy the “fancy things” now to children, too. There’s really no sense in wearing something only once (or not at all) just because someone has said it’s too nice for the occasion. A fresh snow or rainfall, or a new pile of leaves, are very much worth celebrating.
Isn’t play the very best occasion for a child?
Sure, if the clothing needs to stay particularly clean for a special event, have them wear it there first. And then,
relax about it. At least for me, when I look through my child’s boxes of clothes that no longer fit her, the nostalgia doesn’t come when I look at the so-called fancy stuff. The items I hold most dear are the ones we got dirty; the ones I thought I wouldn’t miss if something happened to them. They now represent the times we played together.
Thanks to the little girl in France who reminded me of this. The very best perspective to consider when it comes to play, of course, is the child’s perspective.
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.