Blue Socks? Red Socks?

Suzanne Barchers, EdD

It’s a familiar story—everyone needs mom or dad’s attention, just when it’s time to get out the door for preschool, work, or errands. And your three-year-old can’t find her favorite pair of socks and is heading into a meltdown that threatens to ruin the start of a busy day.

Initiative and productivity are two important life skills, according to the list of 21st Century Skills. Mediating sock choices is hardly productive.

One way to smooth out the morning rush is to start the night before. Give your preschooler your undivided attention and work together to choose the clothes for the next morning. Give your child limited choices at first, but let him own the decisions. “Let’s choose your pants first. Do you want to wear jeans or shorts?” Then move on to tops. A good rule of thumb is to match choices to your child’s age. If your child is two, give two choices of tops. A three-year-old can handle three choices. After age four, limit the choices to four.

Reinforce color names and patterns (plaid, stripes, polka-dots) while working together. If English is your second language, try practicing colors in English as your child progresses through Lingokids. Discuss the weather prediction so that the clothing choices are appropriate for the weather.

Once your child has learned the process, gradually release the responsibility for this task to your child. “Tonight, I’d like you to choose your pants all by yourself. Once you have that done, we’ll finish getting your clothes ready together.” Continue adding items over a week or two until your child has taken responsibility for getting ready for the next day—showing both initiative and productivity, important life skills!