Now that your tot is walking, running, climbing, using the potty (or learning to), and insisting on doing practically everything “all by myself,” you’ll want to keep certain factors in mind when you dress your darling (especially if you want to hone those newfound dressing skills). So when you’re shopping for toddler clothes, look for garb that:
- Won’t blow your budget. While your toddler’s growth rate is a bit slower than the baby pace, you’ll still be lucky to get more than a season out of most clothing you buy, so why break the bank? Take advantage of sales, and don’t turn your nose up at consignment stores. When it comes to basic tops and bottoms, dressing toddlers in pre-worn wear makes good (dollars and) sense.
- Will hold up. Not only do toddler clothes need to withstand lots of wear-and-tear (think playground to puddle and back again), they also need to make it through multiple washings and dryings.
- Meets comfy criteria. A toddler’s skin is still as delicate and sensitive as a baby’s, so parents should be dressing toddlers in soft fabrics like stretchy cotton, which is breathable and super-easy to move in. Also check for well-finished seams that won’t rub and non-scratchy tags (which you can always cut out, of course), and beware of appliqués and other decorative elements that can itch or irritate.
Are a good fit. Here’s how toddler clothing sizes break down according to a child’s height and weight:
2T: 25–27 lbs., 32–34 in.
3T: 28–32 lbs., 35–37 in.
4T: 33–36 lbs., 38–40 in.
5T: 37–42 lbs., 41–43 in.
That’s generally speaking, though. Some other things to keep in mind regarding fit:
- If your child is on the short side, she may be able to wear clothing labeled in month sizes (for a baby) rather than in the T (toddler) size. Month sizes have the same weight range but a slightly lower height range.
- European sizing is based on how tall tots are, so convert your child’s height from inches to centimeters (you can try this calculator) and you’ll always know exactly which size to buy.
- If the toddler size of an outfit you like is out of stock, the kid size may well fit your small fry: Kid sizes tend to be longer with less room in the seat (toddler sizes allow space for a diaper), so a tall toddler who’s totally potty trained can probably pull off a kid size.
- Swimsuits typically run small, so you’ll almost always need to buy one size up from what your tot usually wears. (If you buy a bigger size in a one piece for a little girl, you may need to fasten the straps together in the back to keep them from slipping down her shoulders.)
- If you want to spring for a fancy outfit from a high-end kiddie boutique (for a special occasion, say), go for it — but be aware that these tend to run small, too.