Toddler clothes are made in many adorable fabrics and designs, but some are more functional and practical than others. The best type of fabric for your toddler clothes will vary depending on your needs and preferences, but you'll always want your toddler's clothes to be comfortable and easy to maintain. Janis Stone, a textiles and clothing extension specialist with Iowa State University, recommends choosing toddler clothing fabric that is soft, durable, doesn't require ironing, and that is simply made with stretchy collars and cuffs, so toddlers can learn to dress and undress themselves.
For Tots, Naturally
Natural fibers make excellent toddler clothes that can be comfortable and warm, but are sometimes harder to care for than man-made fabrics. Cotton fabric breathes well to keep your toddler cool in hot weather, and is also soft and comfortable on your toddler's skin. It is generally machine washable, but it may need to be dried outside of a dryer to keep it from shrinking. Wool is an excellent choice for winter for your toddler, since it stays warm even when it gets wet, but may require hand washing or dry cleaning, so choose it for mittens and hats or inner layers that won't get as dirty.
Growing Up Organic
Most parents know that organic food is better for their toddlers, but organic fabrics are important to your toddler's overall health as well. Clothing labeled as organic cotton simply means that the cotton itself was grown without the use of chemicals. However, even organic cotton can be treated with chemical-filled water that can then come into contact with your toddler's skin. Try to choose organic cotton that is also certified as an organic textile by a textile certification company. Organic fabrics and textiles are often pricier than standard cotton, so if you are on a budget choose organic only for base layers, such as underclothes.
Easy Peasy Synthetics
Man-made fabrics are manufactured with an eye toward easy care. Polyester is almost always machine washable and is very durable, keeping its color and shape through many washings, but it does not breathe as well as many natural fibers. Many toddler sweaters, mittens and hats are made from acrylic, a common substitute for wool. Acrylic is warm like wool, but can often be tossed into the washing machine and dryer -- making it an excellent choice for toddlers prone to multiple spills and stains.
Sleepy Time Fabrics
Your toddler hopefully spends plenty of time sleeping, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has introduced regulations to make sure the fabric she sleeps in is safe. All toddler pajamas need to be either tight fitting or must pass flammability tests, often by being treated with a fire-retardant chemical. All children's sleepwear must self extinguish in case the child wearing the garment should come into contact with flame. If you wish to keep chemicals away from your child, choose tight-fitting cotton pajamas instead of looser nightgowns, but check the tags to make sure your child's night wear complies with the CPSC's regulations.