You’ve dressed your toddler to get out the door on a busy morning. You turn around and you now see a naked body. Your child wants to be naked nearly all the time. Is this a problem? Should you do something about it?
The toddler years are an explosion of development. Being able to dress and undress is a huge milestone for children, so they may be very anxious to show off their new skills. Unfortunately, the new skillset of undressing by themselves can be terribly inconvenient or even a little embarrassing with a house full of company.
Another reason toddlers like being naked is purely sensory–they like how it feels! Some children might find clothing uncomfortable and even the seam of their socks or tag in their shirt can cause extreme irritation. However, if you suspect your child has a problem because of extreme reaction to sensations, it’s best to ask your pediatrician for advice and look into sensory processing disorders.
And finally—this will be the case through so much of your parenting years—your reaction to the situation can help determine just how often your child will decide to undress and where. By reacting very strongly and insisting that your child cover up right away, you may worsen the problem. Your child might enjoy your reaction from their undressing and seek your attention even more by undressing at inopportune moments.
So what can you do about your naked toddler? First, react calmly, and don’t shame your child. You might try dialogue like, “Wow! Terrific. I can see you undress yourself like a big kid. Can you get dressed now and show me how you do that?” By acting like the undressing is no more of a big deal than dressing, this may stop the problem in its tracks.
A second approach many parents swear by is designated “undressed” times. If you are the kind of parent who is comfortable with this, you might set a timer or let a toddler know they can be naked or in underpants at certain times, like just before bath time.
As with all developmental stages, remember this: It’s just a stage. Have patience and before long your child will be on to something new.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- Try not to react to your child undressing, so they don’t think it’s a game.
- Try to re-direct your child into getting dressed again.
- Remember that it’s just a stage.
- If you’re worried, inquire with your doctor about sensory processing disorders.