Dress your toddler for function, not style

Dress your toddler for function, not style

When a child learns to walk, you can say it’s a game changer. Gone are the days of swaddling and sitting still, because a toddler’s world (and yours) is infinitely more active.

Between the ages of fourteen months and three years, toddlers are developing their physical skills and learning to walk, run, jump, and climb. Which means they need clothing that can walk, run, jump, and climb with them.

Throughout my experience in early years programming I have watched these busy bodies, eager to move, only to be limited by their clothes.

Sequins, jeans, and tulle skirts slow them down and make physical play dangerous for toddlers when function should be the number one priority. To encourage their physical development and confidence as they move, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for dressing your toddler for active play.


  • Choose supportive, non-slip footwear for toddlers in both outdoor and indoor environments. Avoid sandals as they can be unsafe for crawling and uneven surfaces.
  • Dress your toddler in bottoms that can move with them. Pants that can crouch, jump, kick, and crawl with a child will allow them to fully discover their surroundings.
  • Ensure that tops are loose-fitting and sleeves are the appropriate length. Toddlers love to explore with their hands and shirts should be able to accommodate twisting and throwing.
  • Select materials that are light and breathable during active play. Clothing without fringe, sequins, and other accessories are safer and more practical for toddlers to move in.


  • Choose clothing that isn’t practical. Dresses and skirts are funky but not functional. Not only can they be tripping hazards to toddlers, but a long hem can get caught on playground equipment.
  • Pick hooded sweaters. They could pull or tug a toddler, which is potentially dangerous. Instead, a fitted hat or toque can be a safe and warm option.
  • Expect children to play and stay clean. It’s important for a toddler’s development to explore their natural environment and get dirty while doing so.

As a toddler gets busier and more mobile, it’s important for their clothes to match their activity level. A functional outfit is just one of the tools you can give them to develop their physical literacy. Joining the fun in your own playground-approved outfit is just the cherry on top!

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