Wacky Toddler Behavior: Taking Off Clothes

Your little one's wearing an outfit one minute and then stripping down the next minute. Learn why your little one likes to go nude, and what to do about it.
Buff Strickland

When it comes to making a lightning-fast escape, your toddler is probably a mini Houdini. One minute she has on that super-cute yellow dress Grandma bought her; the next minute she's streaking through the house wearing nothing more than a smile. And, of course, stripping down to her birthday suit doesn't happen only at home, around family: She bares all when friends are visiting, and you've had to stop her from going buff in public (more than once!). So what's up with your kid's urge to be au naturel?

Reasons Toddlers Prefer Being Nude

Discomfort. Those frilly ruffles on your daughter's dress or the zillion buttons on your son's sweater may look adorable, but they may not feel so good against bare skin. So what happens when your kiddo gets hot? The clothes come off! And when it comes to scratchy (and wet) diapers, your child may not have the verbal skills and language yet to tell you she wants to remove her soggy diaper or that she needs to poop. Instead, she goes commando by removing the offensive item herself.

Attention. When your son goes commando in front of the neighbors, do your eyes get big and your face turn beet red? If so, it's hilarious for your child. Even if you do handle your reaction like a pro, chances are you still show your kid some form of attention after a flashing incident (in the form of putting his diaper back on or re-clothing him). All that extra attention means that either way, he wins!

Confusion. Toddlers are still too young to know the difference between what's okay to do or not to do in public. If they're allowed to walk around bare-bottomed at home, they may not understand why they can't do the same at the supermarket, playground, or park.

New Skills. If your toddler is starting to learn how to undress himself, it's an exciting new experience that's easy to master. Once he does learn unbuttoning, unzipping, and removing an arm from a sleeve, he'll most likely do it again and again -- simply because he can!

How to Stop Your Toddler From Taking Clothes Off

Though this newfound ability is something your child will obviously need in life, that doesn't mean it's okay for him to dump his duds whenever and wherever. Teaching your kid to keep his clothes on will save your carpet and floor from messy accidents, protect his body from the elements, and prevent naked disruptions (and stares of shock or anger) in certain places. Help your child understand that certain body parts should be covered to teach him about body privacy and safety. These tips can help your child learn to keep his clothes on:

Shop Smart. The last thing your little one needs while she's running, jumping or stooping is a movement-restricting outfit. Buy clothes that are soft, comfortable, loose-fitting, and cool. Or purchase tough-to-undo attire like one-piece rompers and button-back tops. Remove clothing tags that might irritate your child.

Try a Clothing Switcheroo. In addition to buying clothes designed to button or zip in the back, put your kiddo's forward-facing clothes on backward to make disrobing more difficult. So if your toddler sheds diapers often, put them on backward, too, and secure them with duct tape (but only if your tot isn't being potty trained yet). Just be sure to wrap the tape around the diaper and not your child's skin.

Allow Clothing Choices. "Toddlers want independence and autonomy, so find opportunities to let your child pick and choose what she wants to wear, within a pre-selected short list of options," says Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist and author of Ain't Misbehavin': Tactics for Tantrums, Meltdowns, Bedtime Blues and Other Perfectly Normal Kid Behaviors. Ask simple questions such as, "Would you like to wear your black pants or the blue pants?" or "Do you want to wear the shirt with flowers or the shirt with the heart today?" If your kid has input on what she wears, she may be more likely to keep everything on.

Allow Naked Time. If you let your child go nude for a specific amount of time each day (about 30 minutes after bathtime or an hour before her midday nap), he may be less likely to take off all his clothes at other times. Just make sure you set limits and teach the basics of public versus private behaviors, Schafer says. Tell your child: "It's okay to keep your diaper off after your bath, but you must stay in your room" or "Your body is private, so if you're not at home with Mom and Dad, you have to keep your clothes on."

Tame Your Reaction. When your child strips, don't laugh, scold, or shame her, even if she does it in front of a stranger. "Gently take her by the hand, excuse the both of you and go into her room (or the restroom, if you're out in public), and see that she puts her clothes back on," says Blythe Lipman, author of Help! My Toddler Came Without Instructions. Don't make a big deal of it. "Drawing more attention to the behavior will only make it more fun next time," Lipman says.

Read the Potty Signs. If your toddler stays dry for several hours, seems aware of when he's about to go potty, (he frowns his face or squats in a corner), dislikes soiled diapers, and shows interest in the potty, disrobing and baring a bare bum may be a bigger sign that he's ready to potty train. Start the process for potty training and see how it goes.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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