For kids who are sensitive to how things feel on their skin, getting dressed can be a literal pain. Even things that seem small to you, like a button cuff or a tag, can feel unbearable to some kids. Here are some sensory-friendly clothing solutions to consider.
If your child can’t tolerate stiff or scratchy fabrics, pay close attention to details. Choose shirts without collars and tops without heavy decorations (the reverse side may be stiff, textured, or itchy.) Invest in loose pants with elastic waistbands. For some kids, jeans or other pants that zip can feel heavy or rough.
Consider, too, clothes that have already been worn and washed many times, such as hand-me-downs or thrift store bargains. This may be especially helpful for outerwear, which can be stiff when new.
Clothes made from synthetic materials can be uncomfortable to kids who are sensitive to touch. Instead of synthetic blends, consider buying natural, breathable fabrics, such as 100 percent cotton, soft — not scratchy — wool, bamboo, and linen.
Clothing without tags and seams
Some kids find a shirt tag or a misaligned sock seam unbearable. Look for tagless, seamless clothes when you shop. Most major retailers and specialty kids’ clothing companies carry them in stores and online. If you have to snip a tag, try snipping it as close to the seam as possible.
Clothes without tricky fasteners
Sensory processing issues can affect kids’ motor skills. That can make tasks like tying, snapping, buttoning, or zipping clothing difficult — and frustrating. Look for Velcro fasteners, and consider pants with drawstrings. Drawstrings gather material from across a wider area rather than creating a single pressure point.
Clothes that don’t bunch up
Boxer shorts can be bothersome when they get bunched up. Look for briefs instead and choose bathing suits without a netting liner. When bra shopping, look for one that fits without slipping down the shoulders — a sports bra or a racerback style may be a safe bet. And choose socks that won’t easily slouch or slip down inside shoes.
Sometimes as part of a sensory diet, kids are covered with heavy blankets or wear weighted vests. These are sometimes called compression vests.
If your child takes comfort in that “cocoon” feeling, layers may be the way to go. A T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, and vest might feel better to your child. (You can also buy special weighted garments, though they tend to be pricey.)
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.