How to Get Kids to Wear Hand-Me-Downs and Save the Earth


You want me to wear whaaaaat?

Recycling clothing in the form of hand-me-downs comes with a lot of problems. Who hasn’t had a hand-me-down melt-down? You are frantically trying to get your kids ready for school when your youngest yells, “I can’t wear this! This was (insert the name of older child here) shirt!” For parents of two or more children, the struggle is inevitable. How do you get a child to wear hand-me-downs without a major face off?

Most parents realize hand-me-downs are a great way for parents to save money, but most kids don’t know this. “If money dictates you start using hand-me-downs, then explain so, plainly, (with) no cover-up,” suggests Lise, mother of four.

Teaching your child about recycling early can also be a helpful strategy. Jane Sadowy, president of, shares her approach, “Teaching our children to share used clothing with other children helps them to know the importance of recycling gently used fashions. Children need to remember that recycling clothing helps keep our earth clean and helps other children feel warmer and happier.”

Another way to make hand-me-downs more acceptable is to make them seem fun, and the second is to make them personalized for the child. Does he like animals on his shirts? Does she like glitter? Try to think of ways to incorporate your child’s favorite things into the clothing that they receive. By adding their favorite color or cartoon character to a garment, you can ease those feelings of being second best.

The tips below will help you come up with ideas to keep the baby of the family happy and help you save money.

My oldest in a hand-me-down dress that she pepped up with her favorite shirt.

Revamping Shoes

  • Add new laces with child’s favorite cartoon characters on them to shoes.
  • Use glitter fabric paint to add initials, swirls, and stars to cover stains or scratches on tennis shoes.
  • String beads or charms on laces to add instant cool to any shoe.

Customizing Shirts

  • Have a day to “dye” for. Have your child help you tie-dye several hand-me-down shirts in his favorite colors.
  • Let her friends “autograph” a t-shirt or sweatshirt with fabric markers.
  • Add your child’s initial to a shirt with fabric paint or go crazy and put the child’s name all over the item.
  • Write slang like “Brat,” “Drama Queen,” or “Princess” across the front of a tee with fabric paint to make a trendy tee just like all the high school girls wear.
  • Glue-on studs are also great for making patterns or words on tees and “hoodies” (sweatshirts with hoods).
  • Replace old buttons with fun, colorful ones. There is just about any shape of button you can think of, like hearts, teddy bears, and cars, at sewing supply stores.
  • Trims with bead fringe can be added to the bottom of shirts and around the cuffs. These can also be found at sewing supply stores.

Improving Pants

  • Sew or use fabric glue to attach ribbon or trim in your daughter’s favorite color to the outer seams of jeans.
  • Cut jeans off an inch above the knee and hem to make shorts. This is great way to get rid of grass stains and holes in the knees.
  • Dress pants that are too long can be hemmed quickly, though temporarily, by spraying the leg heavily with starch, folding it to the proper length, and ironing it flat.

Making Coats New

  • Add beads to hood cords for a quick change.
  • Iron-on patches of your child’s favorite things like dinosaurs, butterflies, and cell phones can be found at sewing supply stores for nearly nothing and add a great personal detail to an old coat.
  • Is your little man crazy about army men, tanks, or fighter jets? Authentic military patches can be found at surplus and thrift stores. Attach them to coats or jackets by sewing or gluing them on.
  • Make cute zipper pulls by adding small beads or tassels to a paperclip.
  • Do you have a kid who loves to play pretend? Use felt to make animal ears for jacket hoods. Attach them with safety pins or fabric glue.


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