Toddler Runs Away When Getting Dressed: 13 Genius Solutions!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 04/20/21 •  11 min read

Do you feel like you’re having a mini battle every time your toddler runs away when getting dressed?

Does your toddler take every possible opportunity to strip down and be free to the world?

Do you feel like saying “Fine, you’re nature’s child now!” in defeat?

If you answered YES to any of these questions then you’re in the right place! 

This article will break down exactly WHY your toddler fights getting dressed, HOW to stop your toddler from running away when getting dressed and will TEACH you how to handle your toddler’s desire to be naked and get through this tricky time without losing your mind!

Why Does My Toddler Hate Getting Dressed?

There are many reasons why your little one may hate getting dressed. Some are just part of the normal development of independence while others can be more complex.

There may be a combination of factors at play, but in all cases, there are things that you can do as a parent to ride this phase-out.

TOP TIP: Keep in mind that it is just a phase that will pass and you will need to plan ahead, be patient and be prepared to compromise.

Developing Independence

If your toddler is showing resistance and is constantly hating getting dressed then know that you are not alone and this is very normal for your little one to go through.

Toddlers are naturally entering a phase when they realise they have their own opinions. 

They are beginning to see themselves as individuals with wills and desires of their own.

Toddlers are also very good at sensing what you want them to do and then deciding to refuse to do it!

Toddlers Hate To Be Rushed 

Also, toddlers do NOT like to be hurried. 

With their developing newfound independence, they will use occasions such as getting dressed, sitting down to eat a meal, having a bath or going to bed, as ideal times to say ‘no’ and resist what you would like them to do. 

So, what may appear to be your toddler hating getting dressed may simply be that they do not want to be rushed onto the next thing.

The key here is to slow things down, take your time and make your toddler feel that you have all the time in the world to get dressed. You might be surprised at the result!

Dressing May Signal Impending Separation

For some toddlers that act of getting dressed will be associated with you getting ready to leave the house and drop them off at nursery or preschool.

If they are experiencing separation anxiety then quite naturally they will not want to get dressed as it means you will be leaving them soon.

Sensory Issues

Some toddlers have sensory issues that mean they find certain clothing textures uncomfortable. This might be associated with the fabrics themselves or with clothing tags. For these children, certain clothes will feel excruciatingly scratchy.

I can speak from experience with this as my own son HATED to wear anything that was scratchy, itchy or uncomfortable. I would have to lay his clothes out on the bed for him to feel first to make sure he was happy to wear them that day!

Click here to jump to my 13 Top Tips To Handle When Your Toddler Runs Away When Getting Dressed!

What Do You Do When Your Toddler Runs Away When Getting Dressed?

So now that we have looked at some of the reasons why your little one may not want to get dressed, how do you stop them running away when getting dressed?

Stay Put And Don’t Call After Them

Start doing something else like noisily tidying their room and talk out loud while you are doing it. Pick up a book that you know they like and read it out loud.

Toddlers don’t like being ignored and they don’t like missing out so chances are they will soon come back to see what you are doing. 

When they do return explain that they can look at the book with you or do other activity they enjoy once they are dressed.

TOP TIP: Limit frustrations by taking it slow and make it fun.

Toddlers are entering a phase when they are beginning to want to take control of their lives in little ways, which including dressing themselves. The difficulty with this is that their desire to perform such tasks does not match their ability and this can easily turn to frustration. 

Balancing encouraging your toddler to be independent but helping them in a gentle and patient manner can be quite tricky. 

Make sure you have plenty of time to get your toddler dressed in an unhurried way.

I know that this is easier said than done… but trust me, toddlers will kick up a fuss when they know you want something done quickly!

Have An Established Daily Routine

Children of this age don’t like surprises. They feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their day will follow a certain pattern. This being said they will not take kindly to being whisked away from something they enjoy to get dressed.

So play your cards right and give fair warnings and talk to your toddler that the next activity is coming up. 

How To Cope When Your Toddler Does Not Want To Get Dressed At All

Even if your toddler does not run away from you, but does put up a fight when getting dressed, we as parents need to remember that our toddlers don’t care what they look like. 

They would quite happily stay in their PJs all day. 

If your toddler flat out refuses to get dressed in the morning then you have several options depending on what is happening in your day.

Firstly, make sure you are not short of time.

You can do this by getting up half an hour earlier so that things are not so rushed or pick clothes for the following day the night before. 

TOP TIP: Involving your little one in the choice of outfits may also help them feel more in control and subsequently, more compliant.

BUT… If your toddler does not want to get dressed in time for you to take an older child to school, for example, then bundle them into the car with their pyjamas on and wait until you get back home. 

Just remember it’s not the end of the world & it really doesn’t matter that they’re in their PJs. It’s better than wearing nothing!

What To Do When You’re Late For Nursery

If your little one needs to get to nursery and you simply don’t have time to negotiate getting dressed, then take them to nursery in their pyjamas and just pack a set of clothes in their bag.

When you arrive, don’t stress, explain the situation to the nursery staff (who will perfectly understand your dilemma!) and chances are your toddler will be dressed with their PJ’s packed away in their bag when you pick them up!

REMEMBER: The most successful way to get a stubborn toddler dressed is to allow them to choose what they want to wear and to make it fun. 

This may mean that you have to let your toddler wear a Tutu to the shops or dress up as Superman to the park, but at least they are dressed! 

They will soon move on to the next favourite outfit or lose interest in what they are wearing all together.

Click here to jump to my 13 Top Tips To Handle When Your Toddler Runs Away When Getting Dressed!

TOP TIP: Using a book about getting dressed is another great way to tackle the subject of dressing in a fun way that toddlers can relate to.

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Is It Normal For Toddlers To Take Off Their Clothes?

The answer to this question is, YES.

Lots of toddlers like to take off their clothes and like the feel of being naked. When this happens it is best to not make a big deal of this phase. 

Your toddler may be taking their clothes off for a number of different reasons.

How To Handle Your Toddlers Desire To Be Naked 

As embarrassing as it may be for you to have a butt-naked toddler running around, the best things to do in this situation are:

1. Don’t Make A Fuss Or Shame

When your toddler takes off their clothes don’t react in a shocked manner. Play it cool and most definitely do NOT make your little one feel that being naked is shameful.

2. Offer Choices 

Let your little one help choose what they would like to wear. They may be less likely to strip off an outfit that they have chosen themselves.

3. Make Sure Clothes Are Comfortable

Some toddlers will take off their clothes because they find what they are wearing if scratchy and uncomfortable. Check for irritating clothes tags and if your little one is sensitive to the feel of different types of fabric, make sure you buy them clothes that do not irritate.

4. Make Clothes Less Easy To Remove

Now this might sound like a contradiction as toddlers need clothes that are easy to move in as they are very busy little humans. So you need to find a balance between unrestrictive clothing and less easy to remove clothing.

5. Give Them A Doll Or Teddy To Dress Or Undress Instead

Toddlers like to practise their new skills and if learning to dress is one of those, then having a toy to dress up may encourage them practise this skill on them rather than choosing to undress themselves.

6. Have Appropriate Naked Time

Don’t ban being naked. Have acceptable naked times when your toddler can run around without clothes such as around bath or nap times.

7. Never Allow Naked Time Outside The House Or When People Are Visiting

It is also best to have clear rules about your toddler undressing. Do not allow this when out and about or when you have visitors.

If they try to undress at these times remind them that they can undress later at bath time and then distract with a different activity. 

7 ways to handle a toddler who runs when getting dressed

13 Helpful Ideas To Stop Your Toddler Running Away When Getting Dressed 

  1. Move swiftly from breakfast and do not let your toddler get hooked in a different activity before getting dressed.
  2. Once you start getting dressed, do not use words like “hurry up” or “we need to be quick”.
  3. Turn dressing into a fun activity and don’t rush.
  4. Count feet, hands, fingers and toes, play peek-a-boo.
  5. Ask your toddler to push their feet or hands into clothes and show wonder when they appear at the end of a sleeve or trouser leg!
  6. Goof around and put clothes on back to front or put socks on their hands and a pair of pants on their head.
  7. Get your toddler to help dress a favourite doll or teddy while you are dressing them.
  8. You can use reverse psychology to get the ball rolling by saying “I’m sure you can’t possibly put your socks on yourself”… You will be surprised how quickly they will want to prove you wrong!
  9. Offer an incentive like doing a favourite activity with you or a trip out to encourage your toddler to get dressed. 
  10. You can also offer a 2 option choice. This can range from which socks would you like to wear or two complete outfits.
  11. If you know that time is limited in the mornings, let your little one help choose two outfit options the evening before and have them laid out and ready for the next morning.
  12. Be prepared to give in a little. If your toddler wishes to wear mismatched clothes that’s OK. Or if they want to be Spider Man everyday for a week that is also fine.
  13.  Accept that having something on is better than nothing on!

The most important thing to remember is that the more upset you become and the more pressure you put on your toddler to get dressed… the less likely they are to comply.

REMEMBER: Stay calm, be creative, retain a sense of humour and plan ahead. Most importantly remember this is just a phase.

If you enjoyed this post about toddlers running away when getting dressed and know other parents who would enjoy this content, be sure to give it a share! 

And if you have any further questions about this topic or you have any blog recommendations that you’d like me to write about… Then be sure to drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know!

I love hearing from you!

Until next time, happy parenting! 

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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