As a busy mom embarking on the madness of back to school, uniforms remove the pressure of choice. You get one color scheme, with perhaps a few variations, and your child is ready for school. No laying out clothes the night before. No agony over what to wear. From a mom’s perspective, uniforms are bliss!
Uniforms serve a more influential purpose, though. They create a collective environment of outward uniformity, helping kids to focus on more important things — like their education!
But what about the little girl yearning to express her individuality outwardly? What about the kid who wants to express autonomy and make choices instead of wearing the same uniform as his neighbor? For them, uniforms might be the factor that makes school into a standardized experience that doesn’t inspire their individuality. What’s a mom to do?
Check out these 10 ways that kids can express themselves with their clothing and make choices while keeping their focus in school where it needs to be — on learning.
1. Painted nails. Some schools wouldn’t even allow it, and (truth be told) I’m not crazy about them either, but painting her nails makes my daughter so happy. She paints them each a different color, the bottom half one hue, the top another. She waits patiently while they dry so as not to ruin them — and because she’s so focused and determined when it comes to her creations, I allow this expression of individuality.
2. The cuts of pants or skirts. Usually, there are a few options for the bottoms of a uniform: pants, shorts, skirts or capris. But paying attention to the cuts of these bottoms can make a big different in the “look” of a uniform. Being able to choose between a pleated skirt and boot-cut pants can be just enough to help a kid feel unique.
3. Book covers. When I was in private school, nothing was cooler than a unique book cover (do kids even have to cover books anymore?). Use scrap paper, wallpaper or even have your young artists design their own covers.
4. Jewelry. Perhaps the least practical choice, jewelry can serve multiple purposes for your child. If your child has to wear a bracelet for a medical reason, make it a fashion statement. Does she wear earrings? Give your little one a chance to pick a cute style (within reason). And if you’re Cuban, an azabache will protect your kids from the evil eye and other calamities.
5. Hairstyles. Who said a ponytail was the mandated school hairstyle? Let your kids experiment with different colored hair ties or bows — or embrace a whole new cut.
6. Painted TOMS shoes. Whether you have a girl or boy, customizing a student’s TOMS is a fun and unique way of individualizing a school uniform. Classier than kid doodles, but still totally unique, painted shoes are a fun option. Check out this designer for your own Painted TOMS.
7. Shoe laces. Kick don’t need to be saddled solely with white laces. Spice up their feet with some neon or patterned laces for a stylish perspective. They’re an affordable option, too.
8. Rubber bands for braces. You know, they’re those things that make your kid’s mouth glow in the dark. I loved the crazy-patterned creation I made every other week.
9. Backpacks. Backpacks are the go-to way to customize a child’s uniform look, but for those who have required backpacks, you have to be even more creative. Have fun making a tag with your little one with his name on it for his backpack. Use patches on the inside to create a unique look that makes a kid feel special.
10. Bright-colored accessories. Matching is not a uniform must-have. From belts to socks to hair bows and even shoes, add a pop of color to make their uniforms unique. Don’t worry about matching the sea of navy blue at school — some days were made to be standouts.
I love the inherent value system of uniforms. Especially for little girls, outward appearances are often the focal point in a place where enrichment should take center stage. But on occasion, and with a deliberate and purposed effort, creating individuality among the mass of unified students doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.