The doorbell rings, and my 3-year-old son races to the door. I'm right behind him, trying to get there first. I grab the handle and push him behind me as he excitedly yells to greet his grandparents. I normally wouldn't be in such a frenzy trying to shield him from the neighbors; it's just that he's running around naked again and refuses to put on clothes.
His nakedness doesn't particularly bother me. I'd like to raise him to know there's nothing about his body he should be ashamed of. But his refusal to get dressed has gotten to the point where I have to bribe him to put on pants, and I've started to wonder if this is a normal stage of development or something I should be concerned about.
Thankfully, toddler nakedness is perfectly normal, according to Ana Jovanovic, a psychologist with ParentingPod, an online resource for parents on mental health and well-being. There are many reasons a toddler might prefer to be naked, such as comfort or exploration, and an understanding that nakedness may not be socially acceptable is something young children are still learning. "As adults, we'd feel ashamed to get undressed in public, while for most toddlers, this is not an issue," Jovanovic told POPSUGAR. "They have not yet grasped the concept of a social rule that would classify such an act as an embarrassing one."
Toddlers may be testing boundaries when they get undressed or they simply may be more comfortable without restrictive clothing, Jovanovic said, and they have no insecurities about exposing their bodies. Parents can encourage this exploration without shame by pointing out when and where it is appropriate and safe to be naked, such as at bath time or when they are getting ready to put on clean clothes. At the same time, Jovanovic suggests parents also stay consistent in letting children know nakedness is not OK in some places, like at the grocery store.
If a child insists on undressing in public, parents could put them in clothing that is harder to remove, suggests Adina Mahalli, MSW and family health professional. "It's a phase, but the length of it can vary for every child and how you react to it," Mahalli told POPSUGAR. It's a relief to know my son's nakedness is a normal phase, and hopefully with time, it won't take a bribe for him to put on pants.