Motherhood

Do or Don’t: Naked Babies at the Beach

The last time we were at the beach, something surprising happened…

We didn’t have Toby’s swimsuit with us, so I just stripped off his clothes and diaper without thinking twice. He scampered around starkers, happy as a clam, putting his toes in the water and running on the sand. After all, the beach wasn’t crowded, there were mostly young families, and he’s only two years old. Plus, our cousins and I had run naked around the beach a million times when we were little, so it seemed like a regular part of childhood. Totally par for the course.

But.

That day, although the parents nearby were chatting with us nonchalantly, I noticed a few glances from other grownups. Maybe I’m imagining it? I thought.

Then a seven-year-old girl came over to ask Toby, “Why are you naked?” I explained to her that we forgot his bathing suit, so he was just swimming naked that day. She looked perplexed.

A few minutes later, we were walking down the beach, and I heard a group of young kids giggling and whispering, “There goes the naked baby!”

Wait, I thought with a forehead slap…was his nakedness a faux pas?

In the end, I decided to put his diaper on and let him run around in it, which was fine, even though it got heavy and soggy from the water. Of course, I didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t mind what he wore.

But it made me wonder…is it not socially acceptable to have a naked toddler at the beach? Maybe I’m just used to swimming in my grandparents’ tiny village where everyone knows each other. Maybe it’s less appropriate when you don’t know the crowd personally? Maybe this crowd was more reserved than elsewhere? Maybe it’s just less appropriate these days, in 2013?

I’m so curious and would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Maybe also mention where you’re from, since it might be interesting to hear if various states/regions/countries feel differently. (Regardless, I’ll remember Toby’s swimming suit next time:) Thank you so much!

(Photos by our friend Sharon when we were in Fire Island last summer)

  1. Jordan Poindexter says...

    I often take my kids a lot of places wearing little or no clothing and the beach is definitely one of them. Some people stare but I just politely ask them what are you looking at and they stop staring. Once in Spain this man walked up to my baby and said hi and I let him interact with him and then this f***** leaned down and tickled his penis! I woulda beat the hell out of that dude if I hadn’t learned before that this is common in other countries including Spain. That won’t stop me from taking him naked to the beach but I’ll just not let anyone touch him.

  2. Tone says...

    Beeing from Scandinavia I find this a really strange topic! Offcourse children should be naked in summer. That said, we probably have just one or two days per year with really good weather, so perhaps a bit hypotetic, after all ;)

  3. In the UK in North Devon, we feel it is perfectly normal and dandy to let them be naked but I have friends who think differently. In south Africa on holiday several times we have been questioned as to why we let our son be naked and children ask and stare and point , that is our experience. We feel It is much more conservative , it was not about burning his worm !
    Now at 7 he would never go naked as he is so worried about what others will say , I find this very sad, we wee naked/topless in public until 12/13.

  4. I grew up in Ukraine, naked kids is a norm there. I personally was running topless until my boobs started to grow which for me was like at 14-15.
    I found this article cause we are at the beach now and even though we have these adorable swimsuits she is so cute when naked:) we are letting her run naked. 16 months.
    She is potty trained, so I know when she pools, and with pee I don’t see a problem if she pees on the sand or in the ocean. I think people are too sensetive these days:)
    Havin said that, I would not post pictures of my naked toddler on the beach on social media:)

  5. Our son always runs around naked on the beach. He is also two. We live on the West Coast in Washington, which I find is much more laid back than the East Coast of this country. However, no one mentions it to us. On the island where we live (in the Puget Sound) there are often naked kids on the beach. In Seattle, sometimes he’s the only one– but people don’t seem freaked out by it at least. And he enjoys it soooo much. I often try to put the bathing suit on him but he always prefers naked. I can’t blame him– and since I feel like this is his window where he actually can get away with it– I just let him.

  6. Hello there,

    I think it is the most natural thing to be naked for young children, and we could learn a lot from them – how to feeel good and natural in your body.

    I also think that covering up, especially putting a bikini on a girl without actual breasts to cover (under 8 or 9) makes you think that there IS something to cover / to be hidden. I think this sexualises our society more and is more “pervert” than some free & naked babies.

    from germany

  7. I live in WA, Australia with my son and he LOVES being naked! Naked babies on beaches, near lakes, in parks all seem fine to me… I have had some people look twice if my son is going nappy free, but it only occurs very rarely.

  8. I’m Australian and naked beach bums (for babies and toddlers that is) is a normal occurrence. In fact, I believe it’s almost mandatory for every family photo album to have naked beach bum photo or four. Once children reach pre-pubescent it isn’t seen as often, but I feel our country has a fairly liberal approach to the human body.

  9. Grew up in Northern California where we had a beautiful river and children are naked there all the time (not to mention many adults in many parts). Naked babies are often common on the shores of Lake Tahoe and no one cares.
    As far as all Europeans being much more open with nakedness…I went on vacation with my Danish cousins to Greece and they couldn’t believe the topless women. They said people just don’t do that in Scandinavia and were much much more uncomfortable than I was.

  10. I’m spanish and here it’s completely normal for babies to be naked on the beach, sometimes even 5 year olds… It’s also true that we don’t bat and eye at topless women anymore…

  11. I think it definitely depends on how you were raised and where you are from. I grew up in Hawaii and almost all of my baby photos on the beach cerca 0-3 are nudies. I find on the east coast in particular that naked babies are not as common on the beaches here. I will fight the trend when I have a little one!

  12. I think it definitely depends on how you were raised and where you are from. I grew up in Hawaii and almost all of my baby photos on the beach cerca 0-3 are nudies. I find on the east coast in particular that naked babies are not as common on the beaches here. I will fight the trend when I have a little one!

  13. Growing up in the non-beach South (in AL), it was considered “Low class” and associated with poor people (like you couldn’t afford a swim suit). My mom was a hippy from and had relocated with my Dad to AL, and she would decide to play by the rules based on where we were and people’s comfort. Can you see any of the “bad guys” in the Help letting their kids run around naked? There was rarely a public pool or swimming hole that did not expressly ban it (“Children must wear swim suits”…and sometimes they banned cut-off pants). Honestly, from my parent’s critical take , it was to keep certain people away from the pools at public parks and to impose their world-view on others. But in a post-WalMart world, the ability to afford a swim suit is a much lower bar than it was in 1969….I think they keep the signs up b/c the super awkward conversation of when is it too old to go naked is one most city councils want to avoid.

  14. It’s completely normal! He’s a baby for goodness sake! (English, living in UK)

    Interestingly though we used to visit relatives in Long Island, NY, regularly as a child and one day we had a sitter while the adults went out. I must have been ten, completely pre-pubescent and took off my bikini top to lie on my front and tan my back. I did it very discreetly and nothing was on show (aside from the fact there was nothing to show!) but the sitter asked me to put my top back on because I made her feel uncomfortable. I have never been so mortified. It seemed like a completely over the top reaction.

  15. Here in Germany it’s totally normal. I grew up in the eastern part and nudity was everyday business. At the baltic sea there were so many people bathing naked all the time, especially the older people. Teenager are mostly a bit self consious though, but I think that’s normal.

    Babies and little kids are naked all the time. I remember wearing no bikini tops til the age of 10 maybe. Even when I was swimming with my friends from school, I mean there was no point to that. I haven’t had breasts til that time and looked like a boy anyway ;)

  16. my son is 3 and we always have his swimsuit and he always takes it off. something about the cold wetness of it when he gets out of th water. his dad is Italian and just moved to Canada 4 years ago. in Italy it’s completely normal for kids to be naked.. Stefano (dad) doesn’t notice the bay eyes we get at the beaches in Canada, but I do!

  17. I grew up in a beachside holiday town about 2 hrs North of Brisbane, Australia, and I find it SO CREEPY how uncomfortable some people are about naked children! It’s sad!

    I am all in favour of naked babies and toddlers (mind you, I also live under a big hole in the ozone layer so need to very vigilant with sun protection!) and I wore bottoms-only swimmers until I was probably 6 or 7. (and I would say it was fairly normal around Australia, at least in the less-fashionable 80s when I was that age).

    I find the androgynous appearance of young children dressed (or, undressed) in this way so much more natural than little girls in bikinis! I find toddler & young girl bikinis absolutely creepy. Why must young children be forced to consider their bodies as sexual or shameful or discomfort-inducing when so young? Bizarre.

    Great topic, Jo xx

  18. everyone must have been jealous – we all want to be naked at the beach!

  19. i think a baby should most absolutely be naked at the beach! a wet diaper? ridiculous!

  20. Am I the only one who would rather my kiddo be in a soggy diaper than be naked? If we were at grandmas’ house by the pool or at an empty beach I’d totally have our little guy (who just turned one) run around naked. But at a public beach, you better believe I’d cover up those little buns.

    Too many weirdo/perverts out there!

  21. I don’t think there is anything “wrong” with it, but I wouldn’t have my 2-year-old naked if it could be helped for two reasons: first, I cover as much as I can for sun protection on our super pale family and second, my mom would have a stroke because she is constantly afraid of perverts with camera phones.

  22. I live and grew up in California. Naked toddlers at the beach or park or wherever happen. Why would you care?

    My husband and I were walking at the beach last weekend and I was saying I think women’s bathing suit tops as a requirement are so dumb. I saw a ton of man boobs on that beach and no one was telling them to cover up.

  23. I’m from Hong Kong and i personally have no problem with naked babies at beaches… but to be frank I think I have never seen any naked babies at my local beaches….

  24. In Australia we aren’t so conservative as to expect babies and toddlers to be covered up at the beach. Beaches are such a huge part of our life and I can’t imagine having to put a costume on my daughter for years. It’s sad to think you should have to cover up children because of freaks and weirdos. I don’t think it’s a case of better safe than sorry- society and individuals lose a lot more of our freedoms through fear of relatively uncommon events than we do from said events actually occurring. Most children are abused by people they actually know rather than random strangers. Stay vigilant; don’t kid yourself that because your baby is wearing a nappy that they’re safe. And there’s nothing grosser or more uncomfortable than a baby in a soggy disposable.

  25. In Australia we aren’t so conservative as to expect babies and toddlers to be covered up at the beach. Beaches are such a huge part of our life and I can’t imagine having to put a costume on my daughter for years. It’s sad to think you should have to cover up children because of freaks and weirdos. I don’t think it’s a case of better safe than sorry- society and individuals lose a lot more of our freedoms through fear of relatively uncommon events than we do from said events actually occurring. Most children are abused by people they actually know rather than random strangers. Stay vigilant; don’t kid yourself that because your baby is wearing a nappy that they’re safe. And there’s nothing grosser or more uncomfortable than a baby in a soggy disposable.

  26. In Portugal people don’t mind at all if a two year old isn’t wearing anything at the beach. I really don’t see what the problem is. And I didn’t wear the top of my bikini until I was like 9 and even though most girls wore it, nobody cared I didn’t.

  27. I was in Hawaii last week and we saw the occasional naked child on the beach. It was a little surprising as we didn’t do it growing up and I’ve never really seen it here in Canada. I don’t have a problem with it, but I keep my son well-clothed to protect him from the sun (especially in Hawaii). It’s definitely part of the culture here in North America to keep kids covered up, especially with all the “stranger danger”, fears about pedophiles, etc.

    Roxanne made some really funny points about our contradictory attitudes towards how we clothe our kids, well said!

  28. i think its absolutely fine. if people have an issue with it perhaps they are the ones with an issue. We were all born the same way! xx

  29. I’m a nanny in Massachusetts and I’ve been surrounded by naked babies at the beach for years all around the cape and islands, plus trips to various other places. I honestly think it’s totally acceptable. 3 and under? Let them run free. As with any decision, someone may have another opinion. If people around you raise an eyebrow, who cares.

  30. wow, the story of the couple where manager came to their daughter aged 5 for not having a top on! I would write a complaint and ask for an apology!

    move to Europe, its normal to have toddlers running naked on the beach (unless you are a prude Brit). I lived in Germany where grown up ppl stripped topless in the middle of the park during the lunch break to sunbathe.

    I think u need to have serious issues oif the sight of the 2yo naked child is making you uncomfotable

  31. I’m 14 so I don’t really know much about adult’s thoughts on it, but to be honest, it doesn’t bother me, I think it’s a usual thing to see, up to a certain age of course! It makes me laugh anyway, because babies have such a carefree sense, not a care in the world and they are more focused on getting in the sea and rolling in the sand more than anything, I think it’s nice to make the most of that innocence at that age and let them roam around freely, haha x

    http://currentlylovingblog.blogspot.com/

  32. Yeah its cultural to even give it a second thought I think.
    Most of my life was spent in the US. But now I love in France.
    While I dont think I would let my little one run around naked …(I would become too hyper vigilant to have a good day at the beach)…all his little friends (including girls) run around sans clothing and I see it as a new normal.

  33. Of course he can be naked on the beach. He’s only 2. In france, I don’t think people would pay any attention to that. However, there are always people who can be narrow minded and it’s true that I am careful that people don’t take photos of my kids!

  34. In my opinion it has no sense. He is a toddler!
    I mean, in Spain is absolutely natural and common to see children running nacked in the beach.
    There’s nothing wrong with it…

  35. It wouldn’t be an Australian beach without at least one naked baby/toddler running around.

  36. Come to Hawaii. Our keiki (kids)are always naked at the beach. I read that it boosts their self esteem to be naked, too. I mean, what toddler doesn’t like to play on the beach without a soggy yucky diaper?

  37. I am usually pretty modest but when it comes to naked babies I am a sucker! I just watched my guy wriggling away from his night time diaper all free as a jay bird. I think when they are so young there is a sweet innocence to their nakedness. I would have probably been staring with a dopey “he’s so stinking cute” grin plastered on my face. He’s only 2 once!

  38. I live in Sweden and I don’t mind naked babies/toddlers on the beach, all though (from my experience) I don’t see it that often.

  39. My father is a born Dutchman, but after meeting my mother-a devout upstate New Yorker-we grew up in New York. My aunt, who still lives in the Netherlands, would visit with her three daughters from time to time. I remember one summer was excruciatingly hot, so my aunt sent my cousins (the oldest was ten, I believe) outside-in just bottoms-to run through the sprinkler; a perfectly acceptable act in the Netherlands. My mother was appalled. She quickly instructed the girls to return inside to ensure no neighbors saw this indecency!

    Personally? Let the babies wade as the good Lord made them. :)

  40. I grew up in Hawaii and kids NEVER wore swimsuits on the beach… I suspect the attitudes might be different in New England. But then perhaps people should loosen up a bit!

  41. As a previous commentator said, the stigma in Australia is about the use of sunscreen, not so much nudity. Nude two year olds are fine, I’d only start fussing about pants after four. And for little girls, topless is definitely preferable to bikinis.

  42. That is just awful. For the love of God, he’s a two year old. I’d say pants need to be on after 3 in Australia. If there’s any public tut-tutting, it’ll be about the lack of sunscreen!

  43. I see naked toddlers at the beach all the time here in Australia! Perfectly acceptable :)

  44. Tottaly acceptable at beaches here in Croatia, especially for preschool kids (later on they want to be covered themselves). I really thought it’s normal everywhere, so your post definitely surprised me!

  45. My Mommy is from Key West and she was a naked beach baby at times! Follow my blog. :-) I am a toddler fashionista exploring life…one country at a time! My mom has followed this blog for 5 years and loves it!!! http://www.camrynnaomi.blogspot.com

  46. I remember living in apartments in Tulsa, Ok when I was 4 and my mom called for repairs on our AC unit. When the tech came I was romping around in panties and thought nothing of it. But I was always in a suit at the pool.
    Later, however my parents became very strict Christians and didn’t allow “mixed bathing” and they probably would have been out off by naked babies around us kids who hasn’t learned the “birds and the bees” just yet.
    Personally, I see nothing offensive about bare bottomed toddlers, but I might try to be sensitive of the company I’m with.
    But in your case, I see nothing wrong with letting him go nude. Especially since you wouldn’t want him to miss out on the water play or make him uncomfortable in a soggy diaper.