Shopping Guide for Kids Clothes
Shopping for kids can be tricky. As a mother of two, I know from experience how easy it is to fall for all those adorable infant clothes, even knowing they'll only fit for a few weeks. You have to keep in mind growth spurts, which clothes wear out quickly, school requirements and your child's likes and dislikes. You may not be able to predict how fast your little one will grow or what clothes he'll like next season, but there are some things that can make shopping for kids a bit easier.
From the newborn months through the teen years, kids will need at least some new clothes almost every season because they just keep growing. Some items will last longer and some will get hardly any use at all, and knowing which is which will help you decide when to go for the durable, high-quality clothes and when can you cut corners.
Shopping For Babies: 0-2 years
Babies grow so fast! It may be a cliche, but it's also the truth. In fact, most babies double their birth weight within 5 months, and triple their birth weight by a year. As you can imagine, babies outgrow clothes pretty quickly. However, they also end up wearing several outfits a day due to spit up, diaper leaks and drool. You'll need to invest in a decent-sized wardrobe unless you want to do laundry every day, but don't worry too much about durability at this age since your baby will likely outgrow clothes before they wear out.
Many new parents stock up on all the baby clothes basics in size 0-3 months (possibly because tiny clothes are so cute.) However, keep in mind that while most 0-3 month sizes fit babies from 8 to 12.5 pounds, they do vary by manufacturer. In addition, your baby may arrive much smaller or larger than you expected, either in weight or height. Your best bet is to only stock up on baby clothes that can be returned or exchanged. This also means you should avoid taking off the tags and washing everything before baby arrives.
Another thing to avoid is buying baby clothes too far in advance, as you risk buying the wrong size for the season. Determining what size a baby will be wearing a few months in the future can be difficult since you don't know what your baby's birth weight or growth rate will be, and baby clothing sizes are based largely on weight not age (i.e. not all 6-month-olds wear size 6 month clothes.) They will eventually grow into those size 6-9 month outfits, but if they do so on a different time line than you expect, at say 4 months, your baby may be sporting nothing but short sleeves and shorts in the middle of winter.
Babies between 12 and 24 months tend to slow down a bit in terms of growth. This makes it much easier to stock up on baby clothes when you find a good deal because you can predict baby's size more accurately.
Shopping For Toddlers: 2-5 years
While weight growth slows even more as children enter the toddler years, (sizes 2T to 5T only increase at a weight of 2 to 4 pounds per size) kids this age tend to grow in height at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per year. This vertical growth makes a significant difference in how pants and long-sleeved shirts fit, so most toddlers will need a new size for each cold weather season, while some of the warm weather shirts, shorts and dresses can often be used for more than one season.
Another thing to consider when buying toddler clothes is that potty training can make a difference in terms of pant size. Diapers require a bit of extra room (especially if you cloth diaper,) and once your child successfully potty trains, they may even go down a size. Since it is hard to know when your child will be successfully potty trained, you may not want to stock up on pants too far in advance.
For younger toddlers, consider spending a bit more on thick, durable pants rather than thiner materials or shorts and skirts. Since news walkers (and runners) tend to fall a lot, their knees will thank you for the extra protection.
Lastly, at this stage you can never buy too many socks and underwear.
Shopping for Kids 6-10
In this age range, kids start wearing clothes long enough and hard enough to wear them out. Especially if you have a very physical or rambunctious kid, you will want to invest in durable, high-quality pants, possibly with reinforced knee patches.
This is also the age when you will have to consider if your child's school has any clothing rules that you should be aware of before you stock up. For example, many schools may require shirts with collars, or a certain length for skirts and shorts.
I find that you can still never have too many socks and underwear for kids in this age range. One sock will always go missing from the pair, and you will save money by purchasing multiples of the same color socks so they are still useful when one gets lost.
Toward the end of this age range, you will suddenly have to consider that your child will start to sweat as they hit puberty. This will mean shirts will have to be washed more frequently and will get worn out faster, so you may want to stock up on them as well.
When and Where to Buy Kids Clothes
One of the easiest ways to score great deals on kids clothing is to take advantage of end of season sales. As a former retail clothing store manager, I can tell you that there are only two big retail seasons - Spring (warmer weather clothing) and Fall (cooler weather clothing). You will find that you can score the biggest sales on warm weather merchandise, like t-shirts and shorts, in July. The biggest sales on cool weather merchandise, like pants, long sleeves, and outwear, happen in January. If you are able to take advantage of those sales you will get great deals that can still be worn for a few months before the season's weather changes. If you make sure to buy a size up, your kids can usually get use out of them right away and the next season, too.
You can almost always find the best deals in the back of retail stores because they tend to push the newest merchandise to the front. Collections in the back of the store may be a little more hit and miss for finding the sizes you need, but they will usually make up for that with great prices.
Buy unisex colors for baby clothing or expensive purchases like coats, so that the items can be used again by the next sibling.
Spend more on items that need to last and look good, such as high quality clothing for school. Spend less on items for play wear, like t-shirts for the park or art activities. In other words, when it comes to school clothing, I don't mind paying a bit more for items that will last and wash well from places like Land's End, Gymboree and The Children's Place. For play wear, I often buy Target clothing because I don't really expect it to hold up to all the dirt, paint, food and rough play.
I hope you found this shopping guide for kids clothes full of helpful tips. I'd love to hear all of your best money saving tips for buying kids clothing in the comments!
Images courtesy of ©iStock.com/M_a_y_a, Burt's Bees Baby, and Amazon.com
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