toddler style

How to Dress a Toddler Boy

The minute I found out I was having a boy, it felt a little bit like, "oh crap, the clothes." 

Boy clothes are notoriously awful. As I've written about before, I know people can find this sentiment frustrating; at the end of the day, babies are just babies, after all. Gender constructs are real. However, my (male) child really has no capacity to choose his own clothes for at least 2 years. So for those first 2 years, it's my job to dress him in a way that prevents him from being targeted. If he wants to wear whatever when he's picking his own clothes, that's fine, I don't care. But until then, it's my job to keep him safe and comfortable and clothed. 

Boy clothes tend to fall into two categories: middle aged banker and offensively gendered. It's hard to find anything outside of these categories. The little t-shirts that say "FUTURE HEARTBREAKER" or "MACHO MAN" are, honestly, just plain exhausting. At the same time, however, some of the other hand, a lot of the commercially available clothes for baby boys and toddlers are what I would label "middle aged banker" chic: khakis, cargo pants, tiny button up shirts. It's somewhat cute, but really, is my 18-month-old managing a Radio Shack now? 

I spend a lot of time narrowing down Forrest's wardrobe. People love to buy tiny baby (and even small toddler) clothes because it's fun. Honestly. And the clothes are not exactly super expensive, especially if you're at stores like Target. However, very little is what I would describe as my "style" for Forrest. 

When it comes to dressing a toddler boy, I have a few simple tricks to keep him comfortable and cute. Here they are. 

1. Onesies Are Done by Age 1

I loved onesies when Forrest was little. He rarely wore pants unless we left the house and onesies made it easy to change him. As well, t-shirts ride up on babies when they are only crawling and rolling. However, by the time Forrest was standing and walking, onesies started to get a little bit difficult. Changing diapers after a year old is like wrestling some kind of octopus: he's turning, he's trying to run, he's flipping over, he's kicking me in the face. Trying to snap the buttons on a onesie is an added step that's never going to happen. So, exclusively t-shirts now. Yep. 

2. Shop At Kid-Specific Stores

This breaks my heart a little bit because I love Target. But their toddler boy's section is massively lacking. They don't even have a wide selection of toddler boy's shoes! There are two aisles of girl's shoes, as well as a HUGE section of girl's clothes. Meanwhile, there are two racks of toddler boy's clothes. You probably think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. 

When I really need something for Forrest, I have to shop at the kid-specific stores. Our favorite was Children's Place, but they are, unfortunately, closing. We also shop a lot at Gymboree and Carter's. Boutiques for toddler boys are very hit-and-miss; most of them focus entirely on baby and toddler girl's clothes, which is truly unfortunate. I would love to recommend some, though, so if you have, or know of, a boutique that caters to toddler boy's, let me know! 

3. Keep Things Comfortable

I occasionally do this really dumb thing where I buy Forrest something terribly impractical--like a train print, fair isle sweater. It's cute. He's probably only going to wear it once, if that. It's a nice thought. But it's dumb. Most days, he wears a pair of jogger sweatpants and a t-shirt. Sometimes, we go a little crazy and he wears a hoodie or one of his pairs of "real pants." But I try to only buy him things that are comfortable, that he can play in and get dirty without me being fussy about it. 

4. Avoid the Cartoon Characters

This one is hard because a certain point, it feels like the only clothes out there feature some kind of garish marketing ploy. Lightning McQueen on everything? Mater? It's the same with girl's clothes, truthfully. The only advice I can give is: once you cave, your kid will expect it every time! I don't do t-shirts with cartoon characters. Forrest has two Star Wars t-shirts, which I feel like are "different" than something that seems like just marketing. But that's it. I draw the line at any more! I feel like I always want Forrest to look "put together" and clean. To me, the cartoon character stuff just gets a bit too garish! 

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