Is It Ever Okay for Kids to Be Naked in Public?

Catherine Crawford

There’s no denying that summer is over. In fact we are so deep into fall that I can kind of feel winter hanging out at the door, waiting to waltz in. But still, every so often there’s a faint reminder of summer, and it’s irresistible.

In fact, 10 tiny days ago the weather was gorgeous here on the East Coast. I had no choice but to take my kids out to Coney Island for one last fling with the sun. I had envisioned sitting in the sand and perhaps removing our shoes at most, but my kids were so enthusiastic that they wanted to do it right. Sadly, I hadn’t packed bathing suits. I mean, who swims in the Atlantic in the middle of October?  

“Please Mommy! Can we go in?” my kids begged.

I am nothing if not a pushover. And that day I was a pushover with very little back-up clothing on hand. So, the obvious choice for my offspring was to frolic in the waves au naturel.

Well, almost --- my 4-year-old went completely commando, but I made my 6-year-old keep on her underwear. Turns out, I’m more uptight than I want to be.

The kids were delighted and oblivious to anything but their own sand-filled fun. Watching them, I was reminded of my own childhood. My parents thought nothing of stripping us down and releasing us to the elements. Oh, but times have changed. All the while my kids played in their birthday suits, I was on edge, stuck with the distinct feeling that I was doing something wrong. I was constantly on the lookout for pedophiles, police, and practically anything in between.

Is it even legal to let kids run around naked on the beach in 2010? As this is the U.S., not Europe; the answer to that question is complicated. How sad that it has to be so! At home, both of my daughters are still little nudists, finding nothing wrong with living life in the buff. I want them to hold on to that innocence as long as possible, but I also don’t want them to end up on some creepy website somewhere.

I stumbled on an interesting conversation in which a European mom asked if she needed to buy her child a bathing suit for a trip to the states. How funny that, as it’s so not an issue in Europe, her 18-month-old didn’t have one yet!

Although a few commenters mentioned instances in which beach police had become involved in child nudity at the beach, for the most part America seems cooler than I thought about a little skin. There seems to be a consensus that kids over the age of 5 should be covered but, aside from that, my fellow Americans seem pretty relaxed on the subject. I was happy to discover that most of the responses encouraged Euro Mom to let her baby run naked. 

The degrees of acceptable nudity seem to depend on where in the country your little beach bathers are, but naked babies are still in! Yay! Naked 4-year-olds -- jury is still out.

Would you let your child run around naked?

Image via Facebook

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