A lot of time and energy goes into clothing your baby during the first year. From the color debate, to the rapid speed at which most infants outgrow their clothing, new parents have their plates full with keeping their babies clean, comfortable and clothed. So what do you do when all of a sudden, the baby doesn’t want to wear any clothes at all? How do you deal with the exhibitionist stage of your toddler?
At about fourteen months, your baby will most likely want to romp around in the buff. This is completely normal, and in fact could help a little bit with potty training. Obviously, however, it can be a bit troublesome when trying to introduce social norms, and of course when having company without children over for coffee or lunch. So how does a new parent deal with a naked toddler?
The best thing to do is not discourage this behavior entirely. Set limits about where and when your toddler can be naked and enforce them. It is tedious, but repeatedly re-dressing your toddler may be the best way to get the message across. Keep an especially close eye on your toddler in public. Not just because of the obvious, but because you don’t want to lose expensive items like shoes or jackets.
Setting a “naked time” where your child is free to roam around the house for an hour or so a day is a good way to set limits on acceptable behavior. Make sure this time is a time when you can be around to monitor them very closely and make sure that they don’t hurt their more exposed areas. Also, it’s probably best if naked time is a time when your home doesn’t see a lot of traffic. Your toddler may be comfortable with their naked time, but friends and neighbors may not be.
Use your child’s newfound freedom to encourage them to choose their own clothing. Let your toddler dress him or herself a couple of times a week as a special treat. Soon they might like to get dressed as much as they enjoy disrobing. Make getting dressed fun, and stress the importance of where and when it is okay to take off your clothes. This way your child begins to understand the important role that clothing plays in the day-to-day life of grown ups.
The most important thing to remember is not to let your discipline about clothing become about your child’s body. It is easy to make your child feel ashamed of their naked body, even if it is not intended. This kind of discomfort can go a long way in determining how your child feels about their body in the long term, right up into adulthood. Making play dates for right before or after naked time can be a good way to demonstrate for your child the difference between private time and public time, and let them begin making their own boundaries in their mind. This time in their life is a lot about exploration. So even though you’ve been there, it’s important to let them figure out some stuff on their own.