How to Keep Your Toddler From Taking Off Their Clothes

Tips for Keeping Your Toddler From Taking Off Their Clothes - Illustration by Theresa Chiechi

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

You're in the kitchen making dinner when a tiny, naked blob flies by in your peripheral vision—it's your toddler. They have completely stripped down, tossed their diaper into a sea of toys, and are running victory laps in celebration of their newfound nakedness.

While humorous, it can be stressful trying to keep clothes on a toddler who doesn't want to wear them! Pants become the enemy, long-sleeves might as well be called "arm prisons," and don't even think about mentioning the evil villain known as "shoes."

Why, exactly, do toddlers love taking their clothes off? Here, we'll explore why toddlers feel the need to strip down at any given moment, how to deal with it, and tips for keeping them in those adorable outfits you spent so much time picking out.

Why Do Toddlers Love to Take Off Their Clothes?

Let's take a look at the main reasons you're constantly battling your toddler's insistence on going au naturel.

They Want Attention

If you have the sneaking suspicion that your toddler actually enjoys you chasing them after undressing, you're probably right! Simply put, they crave attention—and what better way to get it than to run around naked?

"Because parents often give their children attention when they are exhibiting an unwanted behavior, it, unfortunately, tends to reinforce the behavior," explains Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Einstein Pediatrics in Virginia. "The toddler is saying, 'When I take off my clothes, I get a lot of attention...I'm going to keep doing it.'"

They Are Mastering a New Skill

Psychotherapist and editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind, Amy Morin, adds that toddlers are typically quite proud of their newfound ability to undress.

"Similar to the way they might repeatedly throw a sippy cup onto the floor from their booster seat, they might find great joy repeatedly taking off their clothes. They're mastering a skill by practicing it," she says.

For Practical Reasons

Sometimes, your little escape artist is simply uncomfortable. "Having a wet and heavy diaper on or an uncomfortable piece of clothing can cause discomfort," says Dr. Segura. She adds that some toddlers lack the verbal skills needed to signal that they want to go to the bathroom, so off come the clothes.

Morin explains that an itchy shirt or restricting pants can also cause your toddler to strip down. "They might find they feel better when they aren't wearing any clothes at all," Dr. Segura says.

Why Is My Toddler Taking Their Diaper Off?

As if taking their clothes off isn't enough, some toddlers go the extra mile and ditch the diaper, too. Usually, this is around the time of potty training.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that, generally, most children have mastered the physical skills necessary for toilet training around 18-months-old (delaying bowel movements or urination). That said, they may not be cognitively ready until after their second birthday.

Along with these skills, emotional and verbal readiness play big roles as well. If your child is unable to communicate their need to go potty, they resort to ripping off the diaper. Of course, some parents prefer a "naked" method of potty training as a way to encourage children to use the toilet since they no longer have a diaper to use.

Tips for Keeping the Diaper On

If you are in the throes of potty training and your little one is constantly taking off their diaper, Dr. Segura suggests encouraging more independence by offering choices about when they can ditch the diaper. "These choices can focus on the how, what, when, or where," she explains.

Different Ways of Offering Choices

  • How: "Would you like to put your diaper by yourself or with help?"
  • What: "Would you like to put your diaper or the underwear back on?"
  • When: "Would you like to put your diaper on before dinner or after dinner?"
  • Where: "Would you like to put your diaper on in the bathroom or the living room?"

"Choices work because the child gets to have some power, and they elicit cooperation, " Dr. Segura says. "When children decide, they buy into the behavior, helping end the power struggle." 

Morin adds that you can implement potty training in stages by starting with the diaper and working up to pull-ups and "big kid" underwear as they get more comfortable.

How Do I Keep My Toddler From Taking Off Their Clothes? 

The big question: How on earth do I get my kid to keep their clothes on? We have some tips.

Lots of Positive Reinforcement

According to Dr. Segura, praising your toddler for wearing clothes is super effective in the long run. She explains that you should first describe the behavior, such as, "You put your clothes on!" (even if they are on backward or inside out). This helps your child understand which specific behavior is getting the praise. Adding a descriptor such as, "You are so helpful!" provides an additional boost.

Along these lines, Morin recommends downplaying your child's undressing as much as possible. "Avoid making undressing a big deal as the attention can be quite reinforcing," she says. She adds that to keep things positive, you can try a sticker chart as a way to reward them for leaving their clothes on during the day.

Give Your Child More Say

A little independence goes a long way. It can be helpful to give your kids more say in what they wear. "Ask, 'Do you want to wear this red shirt or this blue shirt today?'" says Morin. "When they have some buy-in, they might be more likely to keep it on."

Allowing for a little more freedom can help your child feel as though they aren't being forced. If you're feeling brave, you can even let them pick out the entire outfit on their own. It may not match, but they will be excited to wear it.

Get Creative

When in doubt, turn your kids' clothes around! If their sleeper has a zipper in the front, put it on backward so they are unable to unzip it. If t-shirts are a no-go, try a bodysuit with buttons under their shorts or pants. They may end up figuring out the buttons, but they make it that much harder to strip down.

You can also try putting on as little as possible to help them "feel" more naked. If the weather is appropriate, try a light tank top or dress with just their diaper underneath. If they don't feel as restricted by their outfit, they may not be so determined to take it off.

A Word From Verywell

There is nothing more adorable—yet frustrating—than a streaking toddler. As with so many other behaviors, remember that this is just a phase. Toddlers are still figuring out how to be "big kids," which is bound to come with struggles. Keep up the positive reinforcement, get creative if you need to, and always reach out to your pediatrician if you feel like there are bigger issues at play.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to Tell When Your Child is Ready.

  2. Pampers. 23 Potty Training Tips for Boys and Girls.

By Alex Vance
Alex Vance is a freelance writer covering topics ranging from pregnancy and parenting to health and wellness. She is a former news and features writer for Moms.com and Blog Writer for The HOTH. Her motherhood-related pieces have been published on Scary Mommy, Motherhood Understood, and Thought Catalog.

Originally written by
Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.
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