Paint. Dirt. Milk. Glitter. Grass. Tomato sauce. Marker. Chalk. Pet hair. Anything can end up on a young child’s clothes throughout the day – if not multiple times per day – and reactions can be mixed. Some families revel in picking up a student covered in mud – “I can tell you explored a lot today!” – and some expect their student to be ready at pick-up as neat and tidy as they were dropped off. Many of these expectations are cultural and can vary within a diverse community. Families might send their students to school in ‘good clothes’ due to the respect they place on a school environment, or in preparation for their after-school activities. Others might not think to change their student out of pajamas in the morning if they student didn’t want to.
When creating a clothing policy, consider the environment and program. If the expectation is that students will go outside rain or shine, ensure that families understand that they must provide rain boots and hooded jackets. If children are often encouraged to engage in water table play, they will probably get wet and need a new shirt and pants. Children are learning to use their bodies safely, and often step on each other – closed-toed shoes can help prevent injuries.
Young children can mix up clothes frequently, and some clothing might be special to a family. Encouraging families to label clothes with first and last names (by permanent marker or with purchased labels) can prevent treasured jackets being lost. Lost items should have a clear ‘home’ (such as a Lost-and-Found) where families can search for possessions. A program may wish to donate all unclaimed items at a specific point in time (at the end of the school year, etc.)
Many programs ask families to provide an extra set of clothes that can be kept in the classroom in case a wardrobe change is needed. However, not all families have access to many changes of clothes and might not be able to send in extra sets. Asking current families to donate clothes their children grow out of, or taking a trip to a local thrift store, can help stock-up a ‘clothing closet.’ Having a few sets of clothes in a main office or each classroom can be useful in a pinch (accidents, water table spills.) Some families will return these clothes automatically; others might assume they can be kept unless explicitly asked to send them back.
Where To Include
At Playvolution HQ, we recommend programs have three handbooks–a Parent Handbook, a Staff Handbook, and an Operating Handbook. Consider adding this policy to your Operating Handbook.
- Clothing brought from home should be switched out periodically due to changes in weather and children’s growth.
- Providing smocks (traditional or just large t-shirts) can ease some stain-phobia.
- Some young students have their ears pierced or like to wear other jewelry, which may need to be checked against licensing policies in your state/region.
- Hypothermia (and hyperthermia) can be a threat year-round, and some young children can’t express if they’re too cold or too warm.
- Not all classrooms can control their temperature, and some students might get warm or cold more easily. Encouraging layers of clothing can let each child stay comfortable.
- If students are expected to manage toileting independently, they should wear clothes that they can take on and off with little assistance.
Disclaimer: These are sample policies intended for use as a guide in policy development. Your program’s policies should be unique to your program and reflect the program’s culture, practices, and the regulations in your area.
Clothing & Shoes
Please label all outer garments your child wears to school. This includes coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, boots, etc. Should an item be misplaced, please check the Lost & Found basket in the first-floor stairwell. All Toddler and Primary students need a change of labeled clothing to be kept in their classroom. If your Primary student is enrolled in the After School Program (ASP), please provide an additional change of labeled clothes to be kept in ASP.
The school has a limited supply of “extra clothes.” If your child comes home wearing unfamiliar clothes, please wash these clothes and return them to school promptly.
Children should wear clothes they can manage themselves when going to the bathroom. Sweaters, suspenders outside of overalls, tights or small buttons are difficult for children to manage themselves. Pants with elastic at the waist are often easier than pants with snaps or belts. We are willing to assist your child, but he or she is very pleased when he or she can say, “I did it myself!”
All clothing should be weather appropriate for being outside comfortably.
Aidan strongly recommends sending children to school in athletic shoes (sneakers). Full-day and Elementary children can participate in Outdoor/Physical Education only if they are wearing athletic shoes with laces or Velcro fasteners.
Aidan Montessori School, Washington, DC, USA
What to Wear to School
Children should come to school dressed comfortably in clothing that is easy to remove and put on independently. Clothing should be clean, neat, and easily removed. Footwear is required. Slippers are acceptable for normal school days (label both sides with your child’s name).
–Pull-on pants with elasticized waistbands.
–Shoes with Velcro closure, rather than shoelaces, because children take off their shoes during the day.
–Flat rubber soled footwear but no more than one inch high.
–All items of clothing should be labeled with your child’s name.
We recommend fancy clothes and one-piece clothing (e.g., overalls, jumpers and long mu’umu’u) be saved for home use.
Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii, USA
Please ensure that your child is dressed appropriately; toque, mitts, ski pants, for winter; sunscreen and a hat for spring and summer months. Please label all removable items. This will aid in making sure your child goes home with all their belongings.
Little People Preschool, Kerrisdale, Vancouver, Canada
Have a Parent, Staff, or Operating handbook you’d like to share with us for use in our policy samples? You can upload PDFs here.
Thoughts on this topic? Share them in the comments, we’d love to know what you think.