The role of clothing shifts somewhere in the middle of those toddler years. Suddenly out of nowhere your baby hates to get dressed, preferring to run about the house stark naked rather than wear the perfect fall outfit you bought for them over the weekend. That creative control you had over your mini’s wardrobe in those early years is suddenly gone.
How do you explain the need to get dressed to a toddler that hates clothes? Aside from comfort during cooler weather months, it ultimately boils down to cultural norms, which is a pretty complex idea for a young child. Here are some things to consider when tackling this issue in your home.
Check your reaction
If your child has been doing this for a bit, chances are your reaction continues to escalate with the rising number of times your mini has streaked through the house or refused to get dressed. Some toddlers thrive on that reaction. They act out and then wait anxiously to see your response. Make a conscious effort to not give them the reaction they’re craving and see how that changes their actions.
Choose comfort over fashion
Are the clothes you’re trying to dress your child in comfortable enough? Most of us are guilty of picking out the occasional dressy (but stuffy) outfit. But for the most part, kids should be dressed to play, experiment, and make a mess throughout the day. If you aren’t making this a priority, it’s worth considering a change.
Let them have a voice, too
Are you accounting for your child’s preferences? Yes, this can be a dangerous area as toddlers tend to be pretty fickle. And you shouldn’t feel compelled to throw seasonal appropriateness out the window. Factoring in what they like can help get them more excited for the things they will be wearing. Maybe it’s PJs with their new favorite superhero on them or a character from the most recent movie they’ve seen. If they are at a point where they want to assert their opinion and express who they are, this is a way to let them do that and see clothing as a fun essential.
Explain it to them like you would an adult
Avoid the “Because I said so!” approach. Instead, provide some context. Winter is a bit easier since clothing keeps them warm but beyond that, talk to them a bit about why they have to get dressed. It can be basic, like: “We always wear clothes outside” or “We don’t leave the house in just socks since we need to protect our feet.”
Rule out other factors
If they’re in preschool, ask their teachers if they’re doing anything at school that might provide helpful clues. When you talk with them, pick up on their cues. Are their friends at school doing this too? If they’re young enough to be potty training or just shy of it, are they in need of a larger diaper? This trend can sometimes start with babies becoming grossed out by diapers, so changing that approach could prove helpful.
Like any phase, be patient with them. Take notes (if there are good stories, you’ll want to remember them later) and know that, yes, this too shall pass!