Toddler nudity: how much is too much?
August 16, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Toddler nudity: how much is too much?

Where it is appropriate for toddlers (say a 1-2 year old) to go naked in the suburban US? Anywhere indoors in your home is a no-brainer. How about the following:
1. In your backyard (relatively private)
2. In your front yard (dead end street, 3 houses in area)
3. Walking down the driveway, in front of 5 other houses
4. Wading in the lake, with 20-30 strangers (mostly parents with kids) around
posted by crazycanuck to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. yes.
2. yes, unless your neighbors are crazy.
3. maybe not, because people are weird.
4. in nearly any country but the US... but i would say that it depends on the area of the country you're in. on Lake Superior, there's a lot of public nudity (probably due to Scandinavian roots), and it would be acceptable, but i wouldn't be surprised too much if someone gave you the fish-eye.
posted by RedEmma at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2008

i take back my answer to #2, because i know that you're too likely to run into trouble there. if you lived in an isolated area, you'd get away with it, but not in suburbia.
posted by RedEmma at 11:32 AM on August 16, 2008

Well, speaking as a parent in the US, it doesn't really become an issue until they're 3 or 4. So I would say 1 Y, 2 Y, 3 N, 4 Y

My impression (as a US person myself) is that it's defensible if they're playing in a private area, in the dirt (where it would mess up clothes), or in water. Aside from that it gets iffy in terms of social acceptance, and if they're just standing around in view of traffic, which is what #3 sounds like, then I call that borderline.

Of course it sucks that nudity is demonized and there's an incredible "you can't be too safe" and "men=pervs" mentality, but that seems to be the rules around here. Wish people would lighten up and quit watching the locally targeted scaremongering on the news.
posted by crapmatic at 11:34 AM on August 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't have a kid. But if I did, I would have no qualms about allowing my toddler to be nude in any of these situations, assuming supervision and warm weather.
posted by arnicae at 11:34 AM on August 16, 2008

I do have a kid, and wouldn't be too worked up about her being nekkid in any of those situations. I wouldn't deliberately take her clothes off and tell her to run free, but if she were to nude up and go for a stroll I'd be all right with it. All safety precautions assumed, though--some of the above scenarios sound unsafe. I'd be more worried about the fact that she was in the driveway at all than being naked in it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:41 AM on August 16, 2008

You know what---as soon as I hit post I realized I don't actually know. I think I'd be all right with it, but maybe I'd be less glib about it than I sound.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:42 AM on August 16, 2008

You ARE using sunscreen right? Clothing isn't just a social norm...its protective.

Use a PABA-free sunscreen for your kid outside. Yes its sticky, yes your kid will need a bath everytime he sits on the grass/dirt.

Your other option to protect your kid from UV rays (read: NOT SUN...UV RAYS which are also present in cloudy situations) is clothing.

So yeah, if you're gonna hippy it up, make sure you have protection. The last thing your toddler needs is 40-80% sunburn on his body.

Good luck!
posted by hal_c_on at 11:42 AM on August 16, 2008

Where it is appropriate for toddlers (say a 1-2 year old) to go naked in the suburban US?

Anywhere there aren't uptight prudes who would report you to the authorities.
Seriously. So don't think because it's in your home, it's ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2008

1. Yes
2. Semi-naked is OK. If it's not a constant thing, fully nude should be OK too. Depends on the neighborhood, really.
3. Same as 2.
4. Expanding on 2, most parents don't seem to give a damn if toddlers are running 'round nude. My 5-year-old will strip down to her birthday suit at the drop of a hat, and I've never seen a parent of a toddler bat an eye. The people who will raise a stink are parents who's children are out of the house or people who've never had children. I say ignore 'em.

You should get a feel for your area though, ask local parents who you respect.
posted by lekvar at 12:05 PM on August 16, 2008

Under the age of 3, I doubt anyone will really care- and if they do, what exactly are they going to do about it?

The local swimming hole where I grew up actually encouraged toddler nudity- it was better for them than the diapers falling off and floating around. This was an outdoor pond, so there was plenty of biomass to take care of things in the unlikely event that one of the liitle ones dropped off a 3 musketeers bar.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:18 PM on August 16, 2008

I think it really depends on how child-friendly your area is. My four year boy (and his sister up to age 5 or 6) has been nude in all those situations and no one batted an eye but I think I live in a pretty accepting part of Canada. Actually, I was at a public lake yesterday with six children from 10-1 yrs old and they were all naked at one point and no one looked at them funny. I wouldn't allow it as much in a more conservative area because I wouldn't want the children to hear disparaging remarks about nudity from strangers.
posted by saucysault at 12:27 PM on August 16, 2008

As the parent of a 2 1/2 year old, I say nudity is fine in all of those situations.
posted by peep at 12:38 PM on August 16, 2008

As the mother of a toddler (2 1/2), I'd be comfortable with all of those. As long as sunscreen/bugspray is applied if needed. And perhaps a hat and shoes for safety.
posted by jeanmari at 1:12 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

We live in the country and our three and four year old daughters are naked constantly. Frankly, it's a great help potty training. And while we have a giant field of corn running on one side of the property, on the other side is a middle aged couple with two grown daughters, one of whom I work with. Their house is very close to ours. Our side doors are about 20 yards apart. I don't think they care one bit about our girls nudity. But they do entertain a lot, and when they do, we're sure the kids either come in, or put on some clothes.

What Brandon Blatcher notes above really gets my goat. I know I've got it pretty easy on this issue, but I wonder sometimes if girls in particular end up with body issues just because of these kinds of dilemmas. Kids sense the attitudes others project, and I wish more folks could be tolerant of a naked kid. But when we tell a kid that they must cover up, before their own natural sense of modesty develops, I wonder if we're contributing to the problem. Modesty usually kicks in at about four anyway.

I think up to a four year old should be allowed to run naked in all of the situations you ask about above. But yeah, a lot of communities today are not going to react well. If the situation allows, I might encourage you to allow your kid their nudity and take that small risk. If only for them to find modesty on their own, and not have it foisted on them prematurely by the inappropriate judgment of others.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:30 PM on August 16, 2008

I live in the middle of Cambridge, MA, and I'm just cleaning up from a birthday party at which 3 & 4 year olds were running around naked. Here's my take:

1. In your backyard: Of course. IMO, this is one of things backyards are for.
2. In your front yard: Yes. The concept that it's ok to be naked in this part of the yard but not this part is difficult to communicate, difficult to enforce, and the risk associated with it is very low. In my book, that's three strikes against it being a useful rule.
3. Walking down the driveway, in front of 5 other houses: Yes, since we're on our own property and it's the same as the yard. If really sketchy-looking folks walk by (maybe once? this happened), I can stand in front of Toddler Cocoa, pick him up, or guide him toward more foliage.
4. Wading in the lake, with 20-30 strangers (mostly parents with kids) around: Yup. We'll usually start out with a suit or swim diaper, but end up naked.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:28 PM on August 16, 2008

I'm pretty laid back about nudity, but I also don't want to see your child going to the bathroom. It's a lake and plenty of things poop in it. However, seeing your child use it as a toilet would pretty much end my day.

But the nudity part, no problem.
posted by 26.2 at 3:06 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The rule is: Up to three? Run free. Past four? Nude no more.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:30 PM on August 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

They should wear at least diapers in public at all times because I don't want to see your toddler doing his business, or be in the same water.

In your backyard, well, whatever, man.

Shoes are a must, they need protection for their feet.

Other than that, who cares? OH NO A SHIRTLESS TODDLER!!!!!!
posted by sondrialiac at 3:33 PM on August 16, 2008

I'm easily skeeved. Having worked in a bookstore, I learned that pedophiles seek photos of naked children, no matter how artful or innocent. That always affected my willingness to allow my child to be naked in public. YMMV
posted by theora55 at 3:44 PM on August 16, 2008

I grew up in various 'burbs around California and while my family have always been laid back about little kids running around and playing in the nude, I must say, most of our neighbors were and are surprisingly weirded out by it. In the more "liberal" neighborhoods I've lived in, if someone's toddler were seen regularly playing outside nekkid, that child and his or her parents would forever be branded as "trashy" or "hillbillies". In the more "conservative" neighborhoods, the child(ren) and his or her family were talked about as if they were nasty or deviants in some way. In both types of neighborhoods, the child and his/her family were likely to be shunned if the nudity was a frequent occurrence.

I have no explanation for this stigmatizing behavior in my supposedly "liberal" state. Obviously some places are more tolerant than others, so proceed with caution.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:52 PM on August 16, 2008

If you are going to have your kid run around naked in the house, please keep in mind that your guests may not find it as cute as you do.

That said,
1) If it's private, knock yourself out.
2) No.
3) No.
4) No.
posted by madajb at 4:15 PM on August 16, 2008

The people who will raise a stink are parents who's children are out of the house or people who've never had children. I say ignore 'em.>>

Hmmm, judgmental any? I have no kids and could care less about naked little kids in public. I think it's natural and kids shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies and neither should we be ashamed for them, nor should we instill shame IN them. I live on a beach and see naked little kids there all the time and it doesn't phase me. Thanks for the cheap stereotype of childless people (and those with grown kids), though.
posted by FlyByDay at 6:45 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the only thing I find creepy with little kids at the beach is when I see little girls in faux bikinis. A naked three year old is normal and natural. A three year old dressed to accentuate cleavage she won't get for another dozen years is just... odd.
posted by rodgerd at 7:16 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've let my toddlers be naked in pretty much all of those situations. We once had a weird run-in with a man who said that his teenage daughter was offended by our naked toddler boy (she was making a great show of shielding her eyes), but that's it.

I grew up in Scandinavia, which might be influencing my judgment. For all I know my children's nudity was offending people left and right but nobody wanted to say anything.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:27 PM on August 16, 2008

Toddler nudity: how much is too much?

How much is too much for whom? For me, seeing other people's children naked anywhere is too much, so I'd say no to nudity anywhere people outside your family can see.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 PM on August 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I imagine you can split the difference and go diapered/underpants only most any of these places. This is good for a lot of practical reasons, obviously---no pooing or weeing getting on things it shouldn't and it protects some delicate bits from some of the rougher bits of nature.
posted by lacedback at 11:23 PM on August 16, 2008

no nudity anywhere other poeple can see. Most pedophiles have a trigger, and it sure as heck won't be MY nekkid toddler!
posted by agentwills at 3:02 PM on August 17, 2008

Thanks for the cheap stereotype of childless people (and those with grown kids), though.

The poster didn't say all people that are childless behave this way; they said people who behave this way are childless. Whether anyone agrees or not, it's not the same thing.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:18 PM on August 17, 2008

I work at a public sports facility; I love small children; I am very liberal in my attitudes. And yet, I really do not like seeing naked children running around in a public space. Please do not:

Let your child run around naked in public, especially in a place that could not remotely be construed as your own space (i.e. not within walking distance of your house).

Please do not, repeat, do NOT change your child's clothes in public. There are bathrooms, dressing rooms and locker rooms for this purpose in most places where you would conceivably have to do this. I hate to break it to you, but your naked children are not adorable to the sorts of people that you might want them to appeal to. They are, however, adorable to the creeps, who will stand and watch. Please do not make me have to distract the creeps' attention; use some discretion.

If there is absolutely no other option but to change them in public, find a reasonably out of the way place to do so. Do it with dispatch-- don't take a cell phone call that allows your child to escape, naked.

In particular, please don't let children who are still in diapers run around diaperless. I am tired of stepping in their pee.

If your kid is really little-- two or three, I'll cut you some slack. But I see entirely too many 5-6-7-8 year olds getting changed in public. w.t.f.
posted by nax at 7:24 AM on August 18, 2008

The poster didn't say all people that are childless behave this way; they said people who behave this way are childless. Whether anyone agrees or not, it's not the same thing.>>

Until there's evidence to prove this, the point is moot (and judgmental). I'm wondering what facts this assertion is based on. Seems much more likely that people who might have an issue would be: people with body issues, issues of shame around nudity, religious shame, etc. There are direct connections to repression and shame wrt nudity in public with these groups, whereas there are no such connections with the childless.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:30 AM on August 18, 2008

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