57 school uniform tips from parents, for parents
Choosing, ordering and buying school uniform
1. Only buy what you need to replace – there’s no need to have brand new cardigans and jumpers in September if the old ones still fit and have life in them.
2. Use second-hand uniform sales run by parent volunteers – I save ££££.
3. If your child’s school has some logoed items of uniform but doesn’t insist on them, save money by buying plain ones from ebay or supermarkets.
4. Elasticated waist trousers and skirts are best for younger children, especially on PE days.
5. Visit a local charity (such as Uniform Exchange in Yorkshire) to collect free uniform, and when your child has finished with it, donate it back: an amazing reuse of perfectly good clothes and shoes that benefits the environment and the local community.
6. Order everything at the start of the holidays, especially if you have to buy it from a particular school uniform supplier – it sometimes takes a while to turn up. We then go shoe-shopping mid-August; the kids' feet tend not to grow before September.
7. Buy adjustable uniform wherever possible. Adjustable waists are a must, and some shops like M&S sell trousers with hems that can be let down if your child grows.
8. Buy slightly big so it lasts, but not so big it swamps them.
9. Don’t buy expensive trainers: my daughter lost three pairs in one year!
10. Find out what the PE rule is, especially post-Covid. Here, children go to school in their PE kits on PE days, so you don’t need to buy five full sets of normal uniform.
11. Buy early, especially if items have to be custom-made or embroidered: stocks are low by mid-August. And be nice to shop staff: they’re doing their best!
12. Make sure your child has shoes they can fasten themselves. If they can’t do laces, buy Velcro.
13. Hold off on buying specific items like football boots or swimming hats until your child is back at school: they may not be needed until later in the school year, and if you buy them in September your child might have outgrown them by the time they get used.
14. Find out if your child can go back to school in September wearing summer uniform. It may mean you can put off buying winter uniform until half-term, and get a few more weeks out of the summer dresses or shorts.
15. Buy a couple of packs of identical school socks, so you don’t need to faff about matching specific pairs – and when individuals go missing, you can just pair the other up with another lonely one!
16. Have a few practice runs at putting on uniform so your child is reasonably independent by the first day of term.
17. If your child wears a blazer, order their coat one or two sizes too big so it fits over the top.
18. If your child wears white shirts, buy six: one for each day, and a spare. Then put the whole lot in a white wash at the weekend – it keeps them looking bright and not over-used, and it means you don’t have to wash them midweek.
19. My daughter has special needs and sensory issues so I buy ‘adaptive uniform’ that has elasticated waists, no scratchy labels, zips or buttons, and Velcro fastenings.
20. Non-iron uniform is your friend.
21. Buy tights a size up, or even two, as they’re easier to put on and your daughter won’t end up with a saggy crotch as they roll their way down.
22. My daughter loves doing cartwheels and handstands at breaktime but doesn’t want to wear trousers. I’m so happy that we can now buy culottes that look like skirts and playsuit versions of summer dresses to preserve her modesty.
23. If you hate shopping as much as me, order from a company that offers free returns so you can buy a few sizes, try them on at home, and return the ones that don’t fit.
24. Supermarket BOGOF or three-for-two offers usually happen at the beginning of the summer, not the end, so if you want to save money, shop early – but don’t take tags off in case your child has a growth spurt over the holidays.
25. If your child walks or cycles to school in the dark winter months, buy a coat with subtle reflective trim so they’re more easily seen.
26. Pinafore dresses are brilliant for younger girls as they save their shirts from many stains. And if you have a son, put him in shorts as often as possible to save the knees of their trousers.
27. School Facebook groups are good places to buy, sell and swap uniform.
28. Book an appointment to try and buy school shoes if you can. The less time spent in the shop, the better.
Labelling school uniform
29. Buy a stamp and fabric ink pad for labelling uniform. I have just the surname on mine, so I can use the same one for all three kids.
30. I write names on labels with a black Sharpie and it lasts all year. I’m lucky, though, as each has a four-letter name that no one else in the school has. Their PE shorts have black labels, so I embroider their names on.
31. Use hair straighteners to attach iron-on labels. Quick and easy!
32. For expensive items like blazers, or things that go missing a lot, put multiple labels in lots of odd places like inside pockets to make it harder for other people to accidentally (or deliberately) take home.
33. If you’re using a Sharpie and have items made of dark fabric, use a silver pen.
34. Buy universal stick-on labels that can be used on clothes, school bags, lunch boxes and water bottles: I’ve used them for years and it makes labelling so easy.
35. Use unpeelable stickers for water bottles and lunch boxes: pen just rubs off.
36. Put your child’s full name on belongings: if something goes missing, there’s more chance of getting it back than if it just has initials.
37. I get labels with a picture on that my child chooses, as well as their name: it helps in Reception when they can’t read but can recognise a picture.
38. Make sure your child knows what their new labels look like, especially if they have special educational needs: as a TA, I’ve known children refuse to accept items are theirs because there’s a bunny or a tractor on the label and it’s not what they’re used to.
39. I just put the surname on with a Sharpie: I have three children across four school years, so the likelihood is that lost items will make it back to one of them, even if it’s not the right one!
We've rounded up the best labelling solutions for school uniform.
Organising and looking after school uniform
39. We set up shelving in my daughter’s wardrobe with one shelf for each day of the week and put a complete set of uniform on each shelf so she can get dressed independently. Things like cardigans can move down a shelf if they’re clean at the end of the day.
40. Don’t stress about stains. You might want your child to look pristine, but it’s just not possible, and as long as their uniform is clean, there’s no point replacing shirts that have paint or whiteboard pen stains on them. I was told to think of school uniform as workwear and expect it to get trashed.
41. Find out when PE days are and dress your child in their most easily put-on-able uniform: elasticated waist trousers, skirts rather than pinafores, and always socks instead of tights!
42. Always keep one nice logoed shirt to one side so your child looks presentable for school photos, concerts and events.
43. Check the laundry instructions on your child’s uniform – so much of it is non-tumble. Make sure you buy enough for one on, one in the wash, and one spare, especially during the rainy season.
44. Dry uniform on coat hangers to save the need to iron.
45. I have four kids who all wear identical grey school socks in various sizes, so it’s a nightmare to sort them into pairs. My mum suggested choosing a different colour of thread for each child and putting a couple of stitches in the cuff of each sock – makes pairing up a bit easier.
46. If your child is a fidget or has sensory needs and ends up chewing or picking holes in their uniform, ask their teacher if they can use a fidget toy like a stress ball or Tangle to keep their hands busy.
47. Keep receipts, especially for shoes. My son once pulled the tongue right out of his shoe before October half-term – fortunately the shoe shop agreed they were faulty.
Locating lost school uniform
48. If your child comes home in someone else’s clothes – which will happen at least once in their first school year – go straight to the parent whose uniform they’re wearing, as chances are it was a straight swap.
49. Make sure your child knows what their clothes/shoes/lunch box looks like. As a member of school staff, I’ve lost count of the number of times a child has lost something in the classroom, and when it’s found, they ‘forgot it looked like that.’
50. On the first day of school, ask where lost property is for your child’s year, and show or tell your child where it is, so when they lose something, they can go and look for it themselves. It’s worth doing a check yourself once a term, too.
51. If there’s room, write your mobile number in your child’s uniform so it stands a chance of coming back to you if it gets left in the park.
52. As a TA, I suggest sending spare pants and socks in your child’s school bag in the early years, as spares aren’t always plentiful.
53. If your child has had an after-school club and comes home without a piece of uniform, check the hall or classroom they were in first thing the next day. Cleaners have often been and gone by the time the club finishes so it may not have made its way to the lost property box.
54. I use the good old-fashioned trick of attaching a long piece of elastic to each glove and threading it through the sleeves of my son’s coat so they don’t get lost. You can probably only get away with this up till Year 1, though!
55. Use school Facebook or WhatsApp groups to ask if anyone has your child’s lost property and reunite items they’ve brought home with their owner.
56. If your child is wearing hand-me-downs from other kids, remove the old name labels!
57. Don’t just check the usual places for lost uniform – jumpers can quite easily migrate to other classrooms if they’re left behind after assembly or lunch. Check the play apparatus or field as well, as they often get dumped and forgotten when kids go back in after break.