Do you let your kids run around without clothes?

by singlemomseeking on July 17, 2009

today-show1

You can watch me on the The Today Show here:

How long can kids run around naked?

‘If you can’t do it when you’re a kid, when can you do it?’ Others disagree.

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It started a with a phone call from New York Times reporter Julie Scelfo. She wanted to interview me for her touchy article on “Children Without Clothes: When Do They Need a Fig Leaf?” — about kids stripping down when the weather gets hot.

That led to a call from The Today Show on my cell phone last night.

Me, thinking: “The Today Show? Are you sure you have the right number?”

Yes, I even called back, worried that I’d given out my address to some random stranger who claimed to be from The Today Show.

Sure enough, this morning, a very sweet producer and TV camera man knocked on my door. They were here for almost four hours, as Dan-the-camera-man kept telling me, “Will you please stop cleaning?”

today-show

The show airs on Monday, July 20th, at 8 a.m. (which, cough, also happens to be my birthday…).

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“For many parents, allowing a child to run around naked at home is perfectly natural, an expression of physical freedom that represents the essence of childhood, especially in the summer,” Scelfo writes. “But for others, unclad bodies are an affront to civility, a source of discomfort and a potentially dangerous attraction for pedophiles.”

“Just for the record,” Scelfo added. “I tried to keep this story focused exclusively on nudity in homes–not in public, as I believe each setting raises its own set of important questions.

I’d love to know how you — both Moms and Dads — feel about letting your kids run around naked at home.

I’m intrigued by how fired up people are. Many commenters are outraged by the “poor puritanical Americans,” who insist that kids should not play at home — or in enclosed yards — in their birthday suits.

This reader at the New York Times, however, added: “It has nothing to do with making kids feel embarrassed about their bodies, it’s called being polite. Do you have to be naked to be proud of your body?”

Amy Graff from The Mommy Files, on the other hand, agreed that’s it not a big deal:

“…when it gets hot, I like to fill up the wash tub in the backyard and let my kids strip down and play in the water. It’s what I did as a kid and to me it seems perfectly normal. If only we had an apricot tree and a lawn that was long enough for a ‘slip and slide.’ ”

So, what do you think? Is it natural for young kids to run around naked — or unacceptable?

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Photo by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Petersen Shorer July 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm

As a parent , teacher, artist and woman, I love letting kids be naked and I love painting nudes and I’m proud of my body. But …
There is a time and place for everything.

Up until a time when kids start to be somewhat naturally aware of modesty and others sexuality it is fine. Be that age 4, 6 or 9. But at a certain point I started to close my door when I dressed and be aware of my child’s need for a bit of privacy. Yes, I’m his mom and he is not too shy aroud me. But he is at an age when he does not want or need to see me nude. Period.

As for preschoolers, it’s fine if the school allows it. The kids don’t really care if someone is undressed to play in water. But not during circle time.

And I believe kids as young as 2 and 3 can learn some of a time and place for everything. Until they do, we can help them.

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StepMommyStarr July 24, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I am totally in the middle on this one. I am not a biological parent, but I do remember my childhood and do come from a large family. Having said that, I have an 8 yr old (I hate the word step-daughter, but technically she is) daughter and we recently moved into a new place. Much to my surprise/shock she was walking around bare chested. Now, she’s not a small little pancake, she has curves (not fat, just a little belly, and a lot of puerto rican booty from her bio mommy’s side). I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with little kids doing it. Probably up until 6 or so. But 8? I’m very not okay with it. I remember how I was at that age. I was very aware of sex and my body. I am a person who walks around her house naked, but I wouldn’t do it around my kid, and I expect the same from her. Is that hypocritical? Maybe, but it’s not that I want her to feel ashamed. I just think she needs to learn that, as she develops more, she shouldn’t walk around the house without a top on. What do you all think? I tried talking to her father about this, and as many bio parents get, he was very defensive. He said he would bring up the topic with her at his convenience. I almost feel like that’s something she and her bio mom or myself should talk about? What are your feelings on this?

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singlemomseeking July 27, 2009 at 7:30 am

StepMommyStarr:

Thanks so much for your comment! This issue certainly brings up a lot of feelings for people.

What I’ve noticed is: most kids seem to naturally stop “running around with my clothes off” when they start school (age 5 or so).

Good for you for bringing this up with your husband. Hopefully, you two can have an open, loving conversation about this so that everyone feels comfortable.

I wonder if there’s room for compromise? It sounds like your step-daughter enjoys walking around (in the house only) without a t-shirt sometimes… but the rest of her body is clothed, yes?

I look forward to hearing how things go. Thanks.

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StepMommyStarr August 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

Singlemomseeking,

She walks around in panties bare chested. We recently came back from a week long trip to FL and much to my shock my step-daughter walked around the house over there bare chested! Granted, she did it in the morning and not during the day. There were many people around that she had never met before in her life. It seemed so inappropriate. Her father never saw her do this there, nor has he brought the subject up with her, so I finally mustered up enough strength to do it myself. Her response–she stared at me blankly. Now here’s another pattern I’ve noticed. If we go to the store, or if we’re out of the house in general she will constantly be lifting her shirt up and exposing her chest. I’ve talked to her about this, but she just stares at me. She understands what she’s doing, but I think what we need is a nice trip to a child psychologist. Unfortunately, due to other bad behavior on her part (spitting in her uncle’s face on the first day of our trip to FL) as well as my fiance’s lack of any kind of discipline (after she spit in her uncle’s face he took her to another room, talked to her and then put a nice disney movie on for her–am I really the only one who thinks that he only rewarded her behavior in doing so?) I think it’d be a great idea for us to go into some sort of parental counseling.

Any thoughts?

ScubaDad July 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Sure..but usually he only wants to slide his but up and down my carpeted stairs and once at the bottom demands undies. Can anyone explain THAT to me?

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Bob August 26, 2009 at 12:45 am

“How long can kids run around naked?”. Is 45 years ok? I’m a 45 year old guy, and our family was brought up to accept nudity. Therefore if I (as a child) was in bed (naked, of course) and wanted to get something from the kitchen downstairs, I’d just casually walk downstairs naked, get some food then walk back upstairs. The fact that we had a glass front door didn’t faze me, only once did someone come to the door when I was within sight, and they didn’t see me because I ran upstairs quickly.

I left home, went to live in a different city, but it’s really hard to change behaviours of a lifetime. Being naked in that house to me is totally normal, and will be until either my father dies or he sells the home. Of course, I’ve got my own home now, you can guess what happens when I need something to eat when I’m in bed.

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Florida Parent September 28, 2009 at 11:29 am

In my opinion there are several different issues, and mixing them up leads to a lot of confusion. I think parents and children need to learn to be polite, considerate of others, and respectful. Parents need to learn how to communicate well enough that they can figure out what to do when they have honest differences of opinions on parenting. Having said all that, customs surrounding nudity are surprisingly different from one family to another. Some families are very comfortable being naked with one another when it is just family. Some tolerate kids being naked, but not parents. In our home it has always been just fine to take off your clothes. But, you can’t take off your manners and respect at the same time. There are people in all parts of the world who live in places where little or no clothing is worn — they aren’t rude at all! Naturally our kids are very aware of the fact that they can’t be naked at school, at the mall, or running down the street. But, they say “home is where you can be naked.” Home is special and we keep it that way.

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Lexx December 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

We actually had a problem with my fiancee’s ex wife when he and I first started dating.

She allowed his daughter to walk around the house completely nude at the age of 6. That isn’t what disturbed us, what disturbed us is the fact that she took a picture of his daughter and her other child, sleeping completely nude and put it up on Myspace. We were upset by this.

I grew up in a family that encouraged us to love and be proud of our bodies, but, the also taught us to be a little tactful and not flaunt our nudity.

I am ok with a child up to the age of 3 or so running around nude, but for a 6 year old child, sleeping on a couch in full view of the front door and anyone who may walk in or out of the house, is another story. There are too many weirdos out there and you don’t know who to trust.

She also used to sleep without panties on. When she would go to change into her pajamas, she would remove her panties.

She hasn’t done it since my fiance and I sat her down and talked to her about how the human body is a beautiful thing and nothing to be ashamed of but she also needs to protect it because there are plenty of people out there that would try to hurt it.

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Stephen April 6, 2013 at 11:32 am

Personally, I have no problem with nudity. That’s why our household is clothing optional to all.
When my kids were toddlers, they ran around in their diapers until they were potty trained. Since then, they were naked except for sleeping, in which they wore pull-ups. Once they were reliably dry at night, they were put to bed in the buff.
My kids love playing (inside and in the back yard) and doing everything kids do without wearing a single stitch. They are now 9 (F) and 7 (M) and show no signs of abandoning the nudist lifestyle.

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singlemomseeking August 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

@StepMommyStarr: counseling beginning with you and your fiance sounds like a super start! I hope he’s open to it… please keep me in touch, okay?

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