Have you ever received the perfect clothing gift? It’s beautifully wrapped, and still manages to surprise you. You can’t imagine how the giver managed to find just the right colour and fit. You wear it and feel amazing. The compliments keep coming. Just touching the garment reminds you that somebody “gets” me. It’s powerful.You wonder whether children have the same experience--but it’s not quite the same. We provide their clothing, after all. Often it’s gifted, passed along, or hastily measured to fit on the shop floor, and ticked off Mom’s to-do list.
Then there’s the learning curve. Kids discover how to dress and groom themselves, how to select appropriate apparel, how to present themselves. The training process involves routine, wrangling, and resistance, all part of our job as parents. Our children acquire essential armour, the membrane between public and private life, with every such encounter.
But think back to your childhood, and you’ll probably recall receiving a clothing gift that was perfect for you. You may even remember who gave it to you. To this day, you love wearing that colour. You grin at pictures of yourself in that outfit, recall how you felt wearing it. That gift helped you feel that you were seen, loved, and connected.
Having this effect on a child is not limited to fairy godmothers and fashionistas. With a little imagination, you can master the skill.
If you know how to love a child well, chances are you have what it takes to choose a meaningful outfit. You see, wisdom and understanding flow out of love, and they will guide you well. Love makes you more curious, and there are many approaches to studying a child. Don’t limit yourself to age-and-stage.
How about taking cues from the kid’s learning style? A visual learner is stimulated by colour and strong design, so you’d look for unusual motifs. You’d figure out what colours suit them. The kinesthetic child learns primarily by touching and interacting with the world. S/he appreciates texture more than most, needs pockets for the things s/he is always gathering. A child with strong spatial sensibility will likely appreciate lines and patterns.
But what if you’re selecting clothing for a child you don’t know as well? Here are some practical recommendations.
Reach out to parents for the child’s size. While age often relates to standard sizing, you also need an update on any growth spurts, on body type and development. Most parents prefer your discreet questions to a well-intentioned guess that could make the child feel self-conscious. Bringing parents on board allows them to coordinate gift-giving, and often saves them from having to drive around doing post-holiday exchanges.
One parenting hack is to keep a running list of your kids’ sizes, current interests and dislikes, and anything else that helps others with clothes shopping. It’ll come handy at birthday parties and holidays--just send a quick email when someone asks what your child needs. Keep it as a note on your smart phone.
Personality matters. Is the child a functional dresser or fashion forward, tidy or creative? Is she a girly-girl, or does she prefer activewear? You want your gift to offer delight, so ask parents about the kid’s interests and favourite colours. Knowing their dislikes also narrows down options.
Consider sizing up. When the child bolts in a few months, parents will adore your foresight, and the kids will reconnect with your generosity. If the gift is too big for immediate use, wrap it with a small toy or gift certificate the child won’t have to wait to enjoy.
Now if you’re shopping without all this intel, a clear, recent photograph can cue in sales associates. And gift cards aren’t just a thoughtful alternative. From five years of age, children begin to enjoy selecting their own clothes.
As a family friend, your loving eye is invaluable. Your gift might encourage a shy kid to move a little farther past his comfort zone, or inspire a young creative.
For those still looking for the perfect gift for the special kids on your list, we’ve curated a list of favourites...
Personalised gift boxes with My First Jeans, First Tutu, First Formalwear
Dressy sets in trending colours and eco-friendly yarns
Adorable character hats lined with supple, contrast lining
Novelty soft shoes up to 24 months
Feather-light fashion headbands
Gorgeous baby blankets with eco-friendly yarns, hand-knit looks
Plush floor blankets for tummy time
- Little guy soft trousers with suspenders, paired with a pint-sized dress shirt
- Joggers in fashion colours
- The light, little pleated faux leather skirt
- Fashion cardigans
- European sneakers in fab colours with easy-close, Velcro flaps
- The tailored short in metallics, pewter and brushed gold
- The sequined skirt set (with a downy slip that isn’t scratchy)
- Classic, tailored shifts, easily dressed up or down
- Non toxic, perfume free, hypoallergenic makeup.
- “Arm candy”, stackable bead and charm bracelets
- Dress shorts in seersucker and chino fabrics
- Light, brushed cotton jeans
- Linen trousers
- Smart casual jackets in sophisticated prints
Statement pieces include
- Jackets--the glitzy bomber, the black “leather” jacket, novel fashion jackets
- The girls’ legging in vibrant colours and intriguing textiles, metallics and leather-look
- Dress skorts in elegant tweeds
- Trendy purses and hair jewellery
If you want to connect at a deeper level with the child, figure out their love language. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, the five love languages include verbal affirmation, physical affection, acts of service, spending time together, and gift-giving.
So add a card that shows you “see” the child’s heart. Tell them something you appreciate about them. Hug them when you hand out gifts, and sign with lots of love and kisses. Maybe include a voucher to help them with something important, or plan an occasion where they can wear the new outfit.
What matters most is not the gift per se, but getting to the heart of that child, a growing person of infinite value, promise, and dignity. That’s what you want them to feel, when you give a special piece of clothing--wrap it with love.
What piece of clothing have you received that you’ll always associate with a loving moment?