Diaper Changing an Active Child

diaper time

Diaper changing and dressing time can be really hard with very active children. Here are some tips:

Sometimes it hurts

Children with diaper rash can be resistant to diaper changing time not only when they have a rash, but because of the memory of a rash. Treat it early, treat it thoroughly and see your pediatrician if it persists.

Some children with sensitive skin may be resistant to dressing because of itchy seams or tags. They may be too young to tell you why they are resisting. Look for breathable fabrics, soft cottons, seamless pants, shirts and socks. Remove tags. Look for loose buttons or unraveling threads. I was very sensitive as a child, and grew up in the 1970s-the height of synthetic fabrics! My dear, loving Grammy would sew cotton strips on all the seams of my clothes. If she didn’t, wearing shirts and pants felt like I was on fire. 

Is it an autonomy issue?

If your toddler is resistant, it could be developmental. They are appropriately fighting for independence. You can offer limited choices. Remember to pick your battles. If what they want to wear is weather appropriate, it’s probably okay to let them choose what an adult would think was silly! Your child wants to wear a thin cotton dress during the big snowstorm? Compromise and pair it with tights, long johns and a heavy cardigan. Two different socks? No problem. Try to save your “musts” for really important events.

It’s also okay to NOT wear clothes if you’re home and the weather supports it. My niece went through a stage where all she would wear were her rain boots. Totally naked. If she was just hanging out at home, that was absolutely fine for a 3 year old’s outfit. Better than a battle. You can set some boundaries, but try to use some humor. “Oh, is it naked day? That’s fine–as long as you wear pants and a shirt at meal time. Can we agree on that?”

Remember transition time

We often just grab our kiddos, smell their bottoms, and then put them on the changing table. Is it any wonder they protest? No one wants to be yanked away from the fun they are having.

If you’re not looking at a leaking diaper, then try to give your child a warning and a few minutes to adjust. Give them a reminder that they will be able to go back to playing after. If there are siblings, promise you will “save” their toys/play stations so their sibling doesn’t ruin it (and make sure you do!) This will remove a big barrier to leaving play for changing time.

Keep it interesting

Distraction is one of the best techniques for your early parenting toolbox.

Have a special set of toys that come out just at diaper time and dressing time. Try to have the toy be one your child is able to grasp and manipulate with their fingers. Remember to have a bunch of these toys because you’ll need to disinfect each one before reuse.

For example:

I like these see-inside sensory blocks: https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/products/infants-toddlers/sensory-development/see-inside-sensory-blocks/p/AA823

Peep and Peek Eggs (my niece was obsessed with these) https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/products/infants-toddlers/cognitive-development/peek-peep-eggs/p/EG241

You can also try to mount a mirror next to the changing table so when your baby turns their head, they can interact with their image.

If you don’t have a mirror, try posting different pictures on the wall next to the table (or the floor where you change them) that will interest them. I love this poster pack, because babies and toddlers love looking at other babies and toddlers: https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/products/social-studies/social-emotional-character-development/infant-toddler-poster-pack/p/AA420

Special Time

When I worked in childcare, diaper changing time was a treat. I’m not crazy–it’s not because I loved dirty diapers! It was because it was a special 1:1 time I got to have with each child. We would talk, we would sing a song, it would be a lovely “together” moment. You can create this special time with your toddler by helping them anticipate it. For example, “it’s almost diaper time! Oooh, shall we sing “Wheels on the Bus” or “3 Little Ducks” today?

It’s okay to do it standing. It’s okay to do it on the floor.

As long as the diaper location is safe and hygienic you don’t need a diaper table. You can just move the mat to the floor if you are worried your little one might fling themselves off the table.

Need more tips? Want to vent with someone who “gets it?”

Call the Family Help Line and speak with a Parent Coach. 1-800-932-4673
Or, if you want to schedule a time to talk: familyhelpline@parenttrust.org