While most workplaces have some sort of dress code, early childhood settings are an unusual style of workplace to begin with -there’s exponentially more movement and mess than a typical office setting. For your staff, this means they need a supportive policy that allows them to be comfortable and connected with their environment; at the same time, the way your staff dresses will send a message to the families and children you serve -intentional or not. The reality is that there isn’t one ‘set’ list of dress code points that any center or program can stick into their policies. Your expectations for dress code depend on a variety of things -the culture of your community and the climate being the most prevalent. If you’re in a very sporty, outdoor-centered neighborhood, perhaps athletic clothing makes sense for your staff. If you’re in a corporate building surrounded by business people, you might want your staff to dress in matching polo shirts to distinguish them as caregivers. If it gets warm where you live, you might allow staff to wear tank tops or shorts.Dress codes can also extend to ‘personal appearance’ -that is, hair color and style, visible tattoos, facial hair, and piercings. Much like clothing, these are personal, often cultural or artistic choices that your individual staff members make -ensure that any policies you create are free of bias or profiling (for example, if no tattoos are allowed to be visible or no colored hair is allowed because you think these things are ‘unprofessional’, unpack that and consider how your policy upholds barriers to employment.)Just as we do with young children, consider offering your staff examples of what they can wear, instead of going heavy on what they can’t. At the end of the day, there’s a balance of personal trust -that the adults on your staff know how to dress for their work -and professionalism -that there is an image you want to cultivate. Consider a guiding question for your dress code: do these guidelines allow my staff to work comfortably, feel comfortable, and respect their needs, the needs of the children, and the norms of our community?
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 Staff Handbook.
- Athletic leggings are comfortable. There, I said it. They’re great for being active with young children, and can easily be ‘dressed up’ to give off the impression that the wearer isn’t going on a hike.
- Many programs ask that staff in some or all rooms wear smocks or aprons -this can distinguish them as staff members, and also provide lots of pockets. If you choose to use them, consider who will pay for them and who will launder them (and when!)
- Individuals that prepare food (this could be just a handful of individuals or a the majority of staff members) have to follow local guidelines for how to dress with regards to food handling -consult your local agency for details.
- Very young children (especially infants and toddlers) explore with their mouths and tongues -how will this impact glasses, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings?
- If you choose to require a uniform (such as a branded shirt and black pants), what parts of the uniform will you supply or reimburse?
- What sort of footwear will be expected of staff?
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.
Dress professionally, yet comfortably. Our dress code permits slacks, nice blue jeans, and suitable tops, dresses, skirts and knee-length shorts or Capri pants. Halters, tops with spaghetti straps, midriffs, tops with low cleavage, clothing with inappropriate wording, short shorts or skirts are not considered suitable. Shoes or sneakers must be worn at all times.
Sandy Springs United Methodist School Preschool, Georgia, USA
Employees represent the Children’s Center to the community. It is important that employee’s appearance and attire be neat, clean and appropriate for working with young children, as well as meeting with parents and campus representatives. Classroom Teachers, the Assistant Director and the Director may set reasonable standards and have the authority to relieve employees from duty who do not meet the appearance and attire standards. Whenever possible, an alternative will be provided so that the employee may remain at work.
Humboldt State University Children’s Center, California, USA
Employees will arrive at the center with a neat appearance. Employees will be well groomed and appropriate clothing will be worn. No clothing with holes, lettering, or logos (controversial or
otherwise) should be worn. If the director feels your dress is inappropriate, you will be asked to go home and change, with loss of pay. Appropriate dress while working with children in a classroom environment is clothing that allows the staff person to be comfortable and professional. Joyful Noise staff follows a strict dress code. Employees must adhere to the following guidelines:
–Polo shirts or business casual are suggested for everyday wear.
–Pants and slacks must be clean and free of holes and can include: khaki pants/shorts, jeans/shorts, skirts/skorts and scrub pants/shorts
–Shorts, skirts and skorts must go down to the knees (they should be at a minimum as long as your fingertips when your arms are at your sides)
–No polos, scrubs, shorts, skirts, skorts, or pants should show any undergarments or too much skin (cleavage, belly, armpit, bra, or underwear)
–No stressed clothing or frayed clothing
–No clothing with logos that may be considered offensive to different family cultures/values
–Bring proper outdoor wear every day to work ( this may include a coat/sweater, boots, tennis shoes, hats and gloves-ask your lead teacher for a full list)
–You must wear proper footwear to work. Foot wear should fit your feet and should meet the following criteria:
o Heels max 1”
o No flip flops or slippers
o Closed toe shoes only for indoor and outdoor play
o No outdoor shoes in the Nursery; Nursery caregivers will keep a pair of indoor shoes in the nursery to be worn indoors only
o Sandals may be worn in the summer only, and at “downtimes” only (i.e. nap/lunch time)
–Piercing, other than on the ear, must be taken out before your shift begins.
–Tattoos must also be covered by clothing or a Band-Aid.
Please remember that, as a childcare provider, you are modeling
behavior and appearance for your students. Your daily appearance is reflective of our center as a whole. While it is important to wear clothing that allows full participation in all activities (including appropriate shoes and outdoor gear) and a level of comfort, it is imperative that your clothing adequately covers your body and projects a professional image to all those around you. If you need to be asked to go home to change more than twice, employment may be terminated.
Joyful Noise Christian Childcare, Michigan, US
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.