How Do I Find the Right Size Clothing for my Kid?

Can you help me figure out what size clothing to get for my son?

The guy at the register was embarrassed to ask and the clerk said that she’d help him after she finished with other customers.  I was standing nearby and walked over and together, we figured out what he could do.  Granted, it’s most helpful to have the child there but even then, small children don’t have the patience to try things on repeatedly.  So what do you do?

Where Do I Start?

The obvious and easiest thing to do is to first find out what size Junior’s wearing at the moment.  That first comment isn’t meant to be offensive; I’ve been in the position of finding out that he needs something and not knowing what the current size is.  It happens and especially so if he’s bigger or smaller than the norm for his age.  And those are the keys if you don’t have the size in front of you.  How old is he and how big is he in relation to others his age? 

The thing to know is that for children’s clothing, the sizes reflect the normal size for a child of that age.  For example, a five year-old would wear a size 5 shirt and pants and a four year-old would wear a 4 or 4T(oddler).  This practice is standard for sizes up to 8.  After that, they range in two size/year increments such as 10 – 12 and 14 – 16 and beyond the 14 -16 size, then you’re into adult size clothing.  If you have a daughter, all bets are off since she’s not going to want you anywhere near getting her clothing when she’s old enough to care.

Once you’ve settled on the general size, think whether Junior’s bigger or smaller than the typical kid that age.  If you’ve paid attention, The CDC Growth Chart for your child will show you whether he’s in the average size range or on either end of the curve.  

The final early question is why you need the clothing.  If it’s replacing something relatively new because of ruin, then go to that size.  If it’s been awhile since the old clothing was bought, then Junior has to try it on.

Is it necessary to try it on?

Unfortunately, yes.  I know some people who just grab a bunch, buy it and take it home for the child to try on; they then return the non-fitting items.  The problem is that you then have to return with the non-fitting items and you have to have the receipt to get full credit.  Lose your receipt and …

But there are some things to remember that will help make it easier.

  • Choose clothing items or consecutive sizes and have Junior try the smallest size first.
  • If the smallest is too small, then try the next size.
  • Keep the too-small clothing however, for comparison with that made by other manufacturers, since some make a larger size 8 than others.
  • When you have clothing that fits, then lay it out flat and use that as a standard for measuring other clothes that you’ve picked.  It beats having first grader Junior having a loud spasm in the dressing area.
  • Junior may still have to try something on, but the number of clothing articles is minimized and you can avoid bloodshed in the aisles.

When  you get home, Junior can try on the clothing at a slower and less stressful pace or just as it’s pulled out of the closet and drawer for that particular day. 

Cautionary Notes

If Junior tries on the clothing as it’s pulled from the closet, then you have to be sure to:

  • keep the receipt where you can find it;
  • keep the sales tags on until you’re certain that it fits.

Buying clothing is stressful enough when you know what you’re doing.  Keep your head about you and it can be much easier than the horror stories that you hear about.



PracticalDad Guide to the Growth Chart

pdchart12909 by dharrold329.


From the first time that your infant sees the pediatrician, there’ll be a growth chart in the medical file and it will stay with that file until adulthood.  The chart, an example shown above, was developed by the Centers for Disease Control to display weight and height data for your child in comparison to other children of the same age.  It shows the information graphically on a percentile basis so that the medical staff can gain a quick understanding of where Junior in relation to all the other kids of his particular age.


Why Does the Chart Matter?

It’s certainly helpful to know where Junior is relation to the rest of the boys his age.  Should you start thinking of a basketball scholarship or is that not too likely?  Apart from that, your child’s growth rate is a possible indicator of whether there might be lurking difficulties.  For example, if he’s been persistently in the 85th percentile for height but suddenly drops to the 35th percentile around his eighth birthday, the doctor might consider whether there are other health issues at play.  That’s not necessarily the case, but it is a consideration. 

It can also indicate whether Junior is getting off his diet and thus affecting his weight.  There are significant risks associated with poor diet, principal of which is Diabetes.

On a more practical level, it’s helpful when buying clothes to know whether he runs shorter or taller than the typical boy of his size.  If he’s in the 95th percentile for height, then you should look a size upwards.

How Do I Read the Chart?

The sample chart is for boys from two to twenty years of age and shows the age in years on both upper and lower horizontal axes.  The left and right vertical axes list stature (height) and weight in both the English and Metric systems.  There are two range-bound curves, upper and lower.  The upper range pertains to the child’s height for the 18 year duration and is bounded at the 5th percentile and the 95th percentile.  The lower range pertains to the child’s weight and is also bounded at the 5th and 95th percentile.  Remember that the percentile is a measure of about where he is in relation to any 100 randomly chosen boys of his age.  The 50th percentile means that he’s smack dab in the middle while the 90th percentile shows that he’s bigger than 89 of the 100 boys.

The nurse or physician will measure your child at each physical and then mark the appropriate height and weight on the chart.  For example, Junior is in for his pre-kindergarten physical at the age of five.  His height is 3’5" (41") and his weight is 44 lbs.  He might seem perfectly proportional given the closeness of the numbers, but entries on the chart at the fifth year mark would reveal that he’s at roughly the 15th percentile for height but the 75th percentile for weight.  Clearly, he’s built like a fireplug – for what that’s worth.

Other Charts

You can download a copy of a chart for both your baby and child, split out by the gender, from the Centers for Disease Control website.

Birth to 36 Months/Boys Length-for-age and Weight-for-age

Birth to 36 Months/Girls Length-for-age and Weight-for-age

Children 2 – 20 Years/Boys Stature-for-age and Weight-for-age

Children 2 – 20 Years/Girls Stature-for-age and Weight-for-age





Dad’s View versus Mom’s View / Example #2

The different perspectives of Dad and Mom keep cropping up, this time in talking about the family transportation.

The PracticalMom asked me when I anticipated buying another car and I responded that it would probably occur in 2010.  With the eldest approaching driving age, my thought process was that I’d purchase a good used vehicle for my wife, take her still-good car and let the teen use my mini-van.  A win-win since my wife would get a decent vehicle, I’d get her Toyota for hauling kids and my well-used Chevy would become the fall-back. 

I was surprised that she disagreed with me.  Why? Why would the teen get the newer Toyota while I’m left with the older Chevy mini-van?  Where’s the justice in this picture?  Her response was that the Toyota has air-bags along the sides as well as in the front seats, a much safer arrangement for the new driver.

I see her point.  Yet there is such a thing as the pecking order and the belief that children should wait their turn.  What does it teach them that they automatically get to drive the newer, better vehicle while the parent drives the older one?  Having learned on a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, I was grateful that I at least had a car to get around in and the nicer cars were left to the parents.  You want a different car, said my father, then get a job and buy one yourself.  I frankly believe that my teen would be perfectly happy driving the Chevy and it is a solid vehicle with dual front airbags.  So the problem is mine to own. 

Do I concern myself with feeding a teen’s sense of entitlement or my own?  I’m curious…

Dad’s View versus Mom’s View / Example #1

A dad’s view about life usually differs from a mom’s view, and it’s no different in this household.  I will typically defer to my wife about girl issues while she defers to me about boy situations.  After all, I’ve never experienced life as a girl and my wife has never had a jockstrap placed over her face in a junior high locker room (aka the japanese gasmask).

This valley was displayed in our response to eldest son’s return from a boy scout camping trip to northern Pennsylvania.  His troop went to a scout’s cabin and property near the New York state line and the group dispersed to the appropriate rooms for changing and sleep arrangements.  In this case, the male and female leaders got their own separate rooms while the cabin owners took another, leaving the last bedroom and it’s beds for the scouts.  My son and the younger scouts were the first to the room to claim bunks with their bags and were surprised to find that the older scouts arrived and tossed said bags in the hallway.  The younger scouts then had to claim sofas and floor space in the living room for the duration of the trip.

As our son explained the situation, my wife was taken aback that the older scouts could and did do this.  What right do they have to just displace these boys?  I could only smile and explain to my son that this was a part of life and that "rank did have it’s privileges".  The reality is that upon arrival, the younger scouts disappeared to lay claim while the older boys were delayed by staying to help unload the vehicles.  This was simply a group of guys’ silent way of teaching upstart youngsters that they couldn’t benefit from not helping.  No complaints or arguments, just a simple action to prove a point.  And while it may sound sexist, I expect that the result would have been vastly different had it been a group of girl scouts.


Preparing for Flu and Virus Season

We’re now into January and even though everyone has had their shots and Flumist, the official flu season is now open.  As I put cleaning supplies in the laundry closet, I realized that I’m out of the one thing that I really use at this time of year:  disinfectant wipes.

Remember that the flu vaccine doesn’t cover all flu variants.  Instead, the government experts estimate which variant or two are most likely to strike and the contract goes to the pharmaceutical firms for production.  So there’s no given that the vaccines will be fully effective and there have been some years when the vaccines haven’t been as effective.  So it’s imperative to try to keep ahead of household germs, especially during flu season.  Instead of walking around with a spray bottle and paper towels or tissues, I’ve come to rely on disinfectant wipes.  They’re easy to carry and are effective on most bacteria and germs.

So what do I wipe?

  • Door handles, knobs and door frames at the height at which your kid would place her hands.
  • Bathroom and kitchen faucets.
  • Drawer knobs and pulls, especially in the kitchen and bath.
  • Television remotes.
  • Refrigerator handles.
  • Toilet handles and seats.
  • Computer keyboard and mouse.

Literally, anyplace that you think your kid is going to lay their mitts. 

This isn’t a commercial for any particular brand of wipe, but do take the time to check the label ingredients.

And one other reminder is to make sure to keep them out of the reach of very small children who might mistake them for regular baby wipes.  The idea is to keep the kids from the doctor.

Anticipating the Future – PrairiedogDad

In the PracticalDad household, my spouse brings home the paycheck and I’m responsible for the household, money and kids.  Our joke is that she plays offense and I play defense.  And part of playing defense is to be aware of the larger environment and anticipate what’s both on and over the horizon.  While some fathers might consider themselves to be wolves and lions guarding the pack and pride,  I’ve come to think of myself as a prairie dog, jutting his head out of the hole and sniffing for everything that I’m worth.

What are some of the near-term things to watch for? 

  • Seasonal clothing.  When do the snowboots go on sale and does it make sense to buy them immediately when the kids are growing like weeds?  If I wait too long, will the inventory be sold out?  When do the school outfits and bathing suits come into stock and when do they go on post-season sale?
  • Food.  Grocery stores usually run canned good sales in the Winter.  And holiday foods are usually sold out or seriously depleted by the time that the particular holiday arrives.
  • School.  When they reach high-school, the courses available widen and there has to be thought into what the kid takes.  Does the course work for that child and does it meet their need?  Not all kids are created equal in terms of talent and interest.

What are some of the long-term things to consider?

  • College.  I have kids at different ages and they constitute the spectrum of time for planning purposes.  How do I save for college and how do I shift that money around as they age?  What do I have to do now to avoid a major problem later?
  • Driving.  How do I start preparing the kids to drive the car?  Are they sufficiently mature to even handle a vehicle when they reach driving age?  What do we do for vehicles, buy another or just learn to share?
  • Retirement.  Believe me, this is the overarching concern into which everything else factors.  If I do this now, what is the effect on retirement savings?

That means that I spend a great deal of time paying attention to the news and talking with other parents.  It also means that things that I might enjoy are put aside until later and that is itself part of being a father and parent.  Teaching the kids that gratification sometimes has to wait.

So I have a mental list of books that I wish to read and movies to watch when – and assuming – there is more time.

And that list is very, very long.


Unexpected Moments in Breaking Away

We expect that our children will break away from us and that’s what we want; we want them to be able to survive in this world.  There are two things to remember:  First, not all steps are "big" steps noted by trumpets and choirs; second, the early steps are gradual and a step in one area doesn’t mean everything else changes as well.

One of these steps occurred the other evening when I left the movies with my two sons and the elder son’s friend.  The two older boys were walking ahead of me and I reached down for the younger boy’s hand as we were stepping into the parking lot.  He took it for no more than four seconds and then removed it and placed it in his coat pocket like the elder boys.  Likewise, he pulled his hood over his head and moved ahead to join them.  My immediate response was to again take his hand but I reconsidered.  I simply reminded him to continue to watch for cars and moved a little more quickly to keep a watchful pace several feet behind them.

The older boys moved apart just enough for the younger to take a place between them and just behind, accepting them into their small world.  This episode was only a powerfully short ten seconds, a span in which Dad was replaced by a willingness to venture with the other guys across the dark lot.  And a moment in which the middle-schoolers silently and willingly took in a first-grader into their world.

What if I had insisted that he continue to hold my hand?  Embarrassment before the older boys?  A reinforced sense that the only safe place in a normal environment was with his father, heightening a sense of uneasiness about the world around him?  The world does require vigilance and watching out for them is one of my primary jobs as a father.  But it’s a disservice to insist that the only safe place is by my side.  If I don’t allow these small steps now, then the later larger steps will be more daunting than they need to be.

Later that night, the youngest asked me to cuddle with him after he went to bed and I happily obliged.

Kids and Current Events – How Much Do I Push?

Everybody reads how ill-informed our children are about history and current events.  With all of the surrounding electronic noise to distract them, it’s not surprising.  But do I require them to follow events and if so, to what extent?

I believe that children can’t become fully productive adults if they have no clue of what the surrounding world is like.  National history, politics, current and economic events don’t have the cachet of Britney or the excitement of American Idol.  Not to mention that it’s frequently disquieting.  In this household, I don’t expect them to follow the daily news but I do discuss the news at the dinner table and around the house.  Last evening, we sat at the dinner table and I asked if they knew what would happen the following day; fortunately, they knew that Barack Obama was being inaugurated and the significance of the event.  They weren’t certain that they would see any of it in school but I was pleased to find that TV sets were available and on for the event.

They were also told last night that they shouldn’t expect to see anything on television after school except for the inauguration and the subsequent hoopla.

That’s the exception to the rule, however.  I don’t require them to read the paper or follow the news unless we know of some special or extraordinary event.  The drumbeat of the media bearing bad news is discouraging even for adults, so I take the tack that it’s my job to follow current events and then pass that along to them until they show readiness and awareness.  The positive to this approach is that we can cushion the bad news and provide assurance to rattled kids.  The flip side is that they are unfamiliar with various news sources and "how" to read and listen.  It sounds over-protective – especially coming from me – but I’d prefer that they go through news with me to gain some perspective.  And the first is old enough to start lessons on following the news, much to that child’s chagrin.

New Year Adjustments – Allowances

The New Year is a good time to make changes – it’s easy to remember and when the change involves a topic in which time is involved, it’s easy to remember the starting date.

And one of the family changes pertains to the kids’ allowances.  We’re like many families in that we pay weekly allowances to the kids and unfortunately, we’re also like others I know in which we’re frequently in arrears on paying the kids.  When were you last paid?  No, it couldn’t be…you got it just a few weeks ago!  That’s right, few is an irregular number akin to Pi and Phi, the biological constant.  It’s been the source of some argument with the kids and sore feelings with some concern that Dad’s either an idiot or a cheat.

This situation is a result of two things:

  1. The amount that we give each child is not necessarily a nice, round number;
  2. We expect them to split the allowance into three components of spending money, savings money and charity money.

Simply put, I never have the right change for the kids to make it work and I keep forgeting to get to the store or bank to get it.

So it’s becoming part of the family calendar along with piano lessons and sport practices.  Family allowances.  And then I’m making sure that I have twenty one dollar bills and rolls of coins in the desk drawer so that when that day comes, I can be the good Dad instead of the deadbeat.


Bedtime Routines

Many families have "bedtime routines" and while they continue for years, they naturally change as the kids age.

When I was a kid, probably in third or fourth grade, the routine changed to one of teethbrushing followed by a goodnight kiss from the folks and then off to bed.  Mom might enter to give me a kiss, but it was brief and there were no longer any prayers.  Dad was always downstairs ensconced in the favorite chair and almost never participated in the ritual.

This kind of change has also taken root here as the kids grow and are less willing to have the usual routine.  Or are they?  I’m finding that even the eldest – a high-schooler – still wants me to join her for a short cuddle before going to sleep.  The biggest change is that they wish to do a silent prayer instead of spoken, but the cuddling and quiet conversation is what they still want.  If I miss more than two nights of that, then one of them asks for some time before they nod off to sleep.  I admit that it might appear a little odd for a middle-aged man to curl up with a teen-age girl and I have found the concept disquieting as she’s aged.  But I’ve balanced that by lying on top of the bedcovers while she’s curled up beneath.  I believe that a father can and should be able to be affectionate with his daughter without having to worry about questions of impropriety.  Likewise with the sons.

These private moments continue to be important even as they age.  It’s a chance to share daily events and affections, or just talk about life for a few moments.  So I’ll continue to miss the evening television programs and follow-through on the bedtime routines as long as they last.

And I’ll throw that missed season finale on the list of shows to rent on DVD.