A growing number of preschools and child-care centers are requiring uniforms, as I report in my “Work & Family” column. Several big school-apparel makers, including French Toast, Classroom School Uniforms and Rifle/Kaynee Schoolwear, say they have been surprised in the past three to five years by rising demand for preschool-sized navy or white polo uniform shirts, and khaki pull-up pants, shorts and skorts. The trend encompasses all kinds of preschool programs, from parochial and private schools to publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs, uniform makers say.
Parents I interviewed said dressing kids in uniforms is usually cheaper than buying other clothing, and eases their morning juggle. A Delaware grandmother who is raising her four-year-old granddaughter says her preschool’s uniform policy is saving her many loads of laundry each week. When her granddaughter was allowed to choose her own clothes, she had a hard time choosing among her brightly colored dresses and shoes and even swapped outfits at lunchtime every day, using the backup clothes her grandmother provided in case she got dirty. Now, she stays in the same simple navy-and-khaki uniform all day.
Some educators question the wisdom of uniforms for small children, saying preschool is a time when they should be learning to choose their own clothes as an expression of their individuality. Deliberating over a range of acceptable clothing choices – and perhaps engaging in a time-consuming tug-of-war with a parent — is an important part of learning and establishing one’s sense of identity, one child-care center director says.
However, parents who like uniforms counter that their kids learn to express their individuality in other ways, through their choices of hair styles, shoes and coats, or through art projects or social or extracurricular activities.
Readers, what do you think about children wearing uniforms in preschool? Is it a good way to ease the juggle? Or should parents be willing to spend the time and money needed to allow preschoolers to make their own choices? Have you had experience with school uniform policies? How hard is it to get your young kids dressed in the morning?