22 answers

3 1/2 Year Old Wants to "Try On" Diapers - Please Help!

My son who is 3 1/2 now has been potty trained for over a year. No fuss, it was a good experience and he was very quick to learn. In the past few months he has had an obsession with diapers. Not that he doesn't want to wear underwear / shorts, but he wants to put them on throughout the day. Couple things to note:
1) He usually shuts the door and goes into the bathroom or playroom
2) We have a one year old (which I heard it is very common for your oldest to want to wear diapers). I have asked him why and he just says "because I like them". I think he was so excited one day when he did it that one of them fit he thinks he needs them now. I don't think it is because he wants to be cuddled, paid attention to, etc.
3) My husband and I haven't gotten mad, haven't laughed, haven't really reacted one way or another (hoping that that would help). We have told him it is not good to waste diapers.
So, no big deal you say. Very common. I know, I just don't know how to handle it. I feel like it is getting worse because
4) I find him with his friends trying on diapers (both of which are potty trained - their moms are loving me right now!)
5) I found him trying on dirty diapers from our daughter. This REALLY BOTHERS ME. I can find them in her room of course and has gone in there to get them (while she is sleeping which again really bothers me).
I don't want him to go through 6 diapers a day but I also don't want to make a huge deal out of it.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

If it is really bothering you then put the diapers where he can't reach them. Then try giving him some dress-up clothes like a Superman costume, or Spiderman, etc.

My daughter briefly did this, also with the pacifier, when my youngest was a baby. What I did, was I reminded her of all the big girl things she gets to do that her little sister can't. For example, I reminded her she gets to chew gum, play with barbies (toys with small parts), feed herself, have chocolate milk, etc. It took a few times, but she learned the joys of being the older sibling, and that though she "misses" doing the baby things, she would rather get to do the big girl things. I hope this helps.

More Answers

We would comment to our kids that, 'isn't it great that you're out of baby diapers (call them baby diapers) and that you're a big kid now'. Do things with him that you don't do with the baby and comment that you can this now because he's a 'big kid' and that little babies can't do that. Comment on all that he can do as a 'big kid' that babies can't do. Comment that it must feel nice to be out of baby diapers without all that poop sticking to your tush and being stinky! My kids didn't go back to baby diapers :) Hope that helps!

Hi J., Boys who get together and try on diapers in my opinion is not normal, I have never hear of a child wanting to wear diapers becasue his youubger sibling is wearing them, I know my second sonwanted to wesr big boy underwer like his older brother so he was potty trained at 19 months. Diapers are expencive, I'm looking at the fact to that he is going into her room, getting into things that are not his, If this was one of my sons, I would be making a huge deal, and mjy husband being the father of sons, would be making an even huger deal, when things are treated their no big deal kids think what they are doing is ok. I have 3 and 4 year old in my daycare, that would not want you any where near them with a diaper. I would tell no more diapers, those belong to your sister, and your big boy underwear belongs to you, and I would tell you don't get into other peoples things. J.


My advice - remember you are the parent. Saying "no" isn't the same as making a big deal about something - it is just saying no. If he continues AFTER you say no, then he is being disobedient, and it is time for consequences. You have mentioned plenty of reasons why this isn't an arbitrary decision on your part (waste, hygine, bd example to other kids). Be firm, be consistent. Good luck.


Hi J.:
While I believe,that you and your husband have done your best to make your son feel that his new little sister's arrival is a good thing,most sibblings, feel that they have been replaced by a (superstar) Your sons life was perfect. he was the center of attention in the perfect love triangle: mommy, daddy, and child. he had his parents complete attention the last 3 years. He never had to share his parents with anyone. I read this in an article,about seeing things through a childs eyes. "Mommy and daddy love you just as much." ("Then why is that baby always in your arms and I'm not?") "I need to spend more time with your baby sister because babies need mommies so much, just like you did when you were a baby." ("I'd rather still be a baby. And I need mommy, too. Besides, I don't remember being a baby.") It may very well be, that he doesn't remember,and maybe part of him wants YOU to remember that time to.I don't believe that his behavior is abnormal at all.I think, there are times he possibly may yearn to be small like his sister again.This is no fault of yours. You can't neglect the baby,because hes feeling envious.I wouldn't make a big deal out of the diapers. I think,I'd make sure he couldn't get to his sisters dirty diapers,and I'd put her other diapers up, with the exception of one, so he couldn't waste them.I think,his actions are more of an attention getter.I see no need to get upset,quite the contrary.I think I would bring out some photos,of him in diapers.I'd sit with him,and tell him what a darling baby he was,and how much you loved craddling him in your arms.I'd tell him how proud I was of him,when he began talking to you and walking...I'd tell him,that no matter how big he gets. Even when he becomes as big as daddy,he will still be your little boy,and you will still hug him.The word (special) goes a long way,for an older sibling.Being told,that he gets special privilages,because he is the big brother,can build his self esteem,and make up for time he feels hes missing with you.Going to get ice cream,or going to the park.Babies can't do that.BUT big boys can.I hope this little bit helps,I wish you and your darlin son the best.J.

Dear J.,

Gee, I don't know . . . you don't say (unless I missed it) if he is USING the diapers when he "tries them" or still using the toilet. I would say that if he is not "using" the diapers, that you need to explain as best you can that the dirty diapers are OFF LIMITS!!! - "Dirty," "yucky," "nasty," "gross," whatever - you may need to put a "lock" on your dirty diaper receptacle - or use a Diaper Genie. Then as far as trying on clean diapers - if he is not using them! - put them up where he can't get them - I know it's a pain in the (sorry for the pun!) butt to not keep them handy! - and give him ONE that he can wear. Maybe even put his name on it with a marker, make it special for HIM. Or give him a couple - or his own diaper bag, whatever - but they are EXPENSIVE! and you don't want to be out when you need to put one on your daughter.

(Btw, I ate baby food after my brother was born, and I was five! - I like the bananas with cottage cheese, which seems ironic to me, because I hate cottage cheese!)

Good luck!

Hi J.,

This is something that I haven't heard of before. I've heard of younger sibling wanting to wear their older sibling's big girl/boy underwear, but not the other way around. I would like to ask if you are letting him help you while you change your younger child. Maybe he is thinking that you are spending so much time with the baby while changing diapers that he wants the same "diaper time". My other thought is that because he was around 2 1/2 when he was potty trained, he doesn't really remember wearing diapers himself. Maybe he just wants to see how it feels. Either way, this is just another one of those little mysteries that children do. I'm sure he will lose interest.

Good luck,


Sounds like he is just being curious. Definitely you need to stop the dirty diaper business. He's old enough to understand about germs.

I hope your hubby doesn't freak out at this idea, but get him a doll that he can put diapers on. There are boy Cabbage Patch kids and let him pick out a "baby" stuffed animal. then he can reuse the same diaper all day. You can also get him some undies to dress up the baby in. You can tell him that he's learning how to be a good daddy for when he is grwon up, like his own daddy.

Perhaps he is just trying to imitate you both and how you act with his sister. If he has his own "baby" and diaper stash, it should hopefully elimnate the negative problems and help your son grow into a nurturing father down the road.

To me, this is pretty clear-cut. You need to tell him NO.

You don't have to get mad to the point of rage, but you need to be very clear and firm in telling him that this is not appropriate. That diapers are for babies who don't know how to use the potty yet. That he is a big boy who uses the potty and so he doesn't need the diapers. You should be disapproving of this behavior so that he doesn't think it's okay to keep doing it. At this age, kids are more likely to do things that they are praised for and will stop doing things that we get upset about because they don't like to be in trouble (time-outs, etc.)

My daughter has been potty trained for nearly a year. Recently, we had a lot of dramatic changes in our lives (big move, change in pre-school, etc.) and then we went on vacation to see my mother (4 states away) and spent a lot of time in the car. Once we got there, she had her first accident and pooped in her pants. I didn't get mad, I understand that she's feeling the stress of these times in a different way, and she doesn't understand what's going on. She was upset and crying and I comforted her and told her it was okay, it was an accident. But then it happened again. I again told her it was okay, no one was mad. This time she wasn't as upset. When it happened a third time, I said okay, that's enough. If you have an accident, that's one thing, but you need to be trying to go on the potty, because you are a big girl now and big girl's poop in the potty, not in their pants. If you keep pooping in your pants, we're going to have to start wearing diapers again and that's not good. And she agreed and guess what? It didn't happen again or since.

Don't be afraid to say no and set boundaries. This is when you are creating the guidelines by which they understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Let him know that this is NOT acceptable.

I beleive he wants to be your baby again. He see's the attention the baby is getting and wants that also. I would divert his attention from wanting to wear them, to allowing him to have a baby of his own and letting him put diapers on his baby instead of himself. Let him pick out his own baby at the store. Tell him he's a wonderful daddy like his daddy. Let him buy play diapers for his baby. Everytime you change your baby, have him change his baby. When my son was little he had "His Son". He carried that baby every where. Some people thought it was wierd, but it filled his need at the time. He is a well adjusted caring and loving person. There are no side effects from a little boy learning to be a good daddy. Hope this helps.

His behavior shows that he knows he is doing wrong. You can go a little overboard with the 'understanding your child' thing. Set up a consequence for his actions, teach your child that if he does A, B happens. I believe this is one thing that needs to be impressed on children. They are going to be adults a lot longer than they will be children so teach them to be adults in small ways as soon as you can.

This is just my opinion, this is a definite no no, this is not cute. Because our little ones grow up to be big kids, we must teach them proper behavior before someone else does. I would recommend telling him this is a no no, then maybe put the diapers out of his reach including the dirty diapers. You don't want him to go to other people's homes and display this behavior. Discipline at home is the key, he must learn from you want is right and wrong. Your son is not stupid, he seems to be a smart young man, he'll understand when you tell him no and mean it...

Is diaper service an option where you live?

We used Dy-Dee diaper service with all three of our babies, and we loved it. This was many years ago, so I don't know how the cost compares now, but at that time it was comparable to the good-quality disposable diapers. I know the company is still in business (and no, we have no connection to them, financially or otherwise). You got the same diapers back every time, so you didn't have to worry about getting other people's cooties, and they were always white and sweet-smelling and soft. AND you weren't putting stuff in the landfills!

Anyway, cloth diapers would most likely nip this in the bud--what four-year-old is going to try to put on a diaper that involves using diaper pins?

He's little yet, so can't fully grasp economics; but you could try to explain to him that diapers cost money and people who don't need to pee and poo in them don't need them, that's why he doesn't have any.

Now here's my perhaps crack-pot suggestion: Then give him a few that can be his to try on when he feels like it, but ask him to not throw them away, as that would be wasting. The mystique will wear off, and he'll get over it.

All the best,

Hi J.,

I would take a marking pen and write his name on one diaper and tell him that it is his play diaper. Then he can use it just like costume dress-up play. Then explain that the whole dirty diaper "no no" and let him know there will be a consequence if he breaks to rules you set about wasting new diapers or getting into dirty ones. Also make the NO going in your sister's room while she is sleeping boundary VERY clear and what will happen if he does it. Then your biggest job will be to follow through on your terms! Good luck sister:)

If it is really bothering you then put the diapers where he can't reach them. Then try giving him some dress-up clothes like a Superman costume, or Spiderman, etc.

My daughter briefly did this, also with the pacifier, when my youngest was a baby. What I did, was I reminded her of all the big girl things she gets to do that her little sister can't. For example, I reminded her she gets to chew gum, play with barbies (toys with small parts), feed herself, have chocolate milk, etc. It took a few times, but she learned the joys of being the older sibling, and that though she "misses" doing the baby things, she would rather get to do the big girl things. I hope this helps.

Just let him do it and ignore the whole thing. Give him a diaper, write his name on it, and let him play with it. That way he know's the diaper is like a toy, not to be used etc. Play changing the baby with him and see where it get's you. Ask him if he's prefer to play change the baby or trucks (just pick something he loves). While he may choose change the baby at first, soon he'll move on to something he loves.Clearly he's working out issues re the 1 year old - jealousy etc. If I had to guess he's feeling ignored and it looking to have you "take care of him". Try spending a little special time with him each day, doing something he loves. Just make sure he feels acknowledged.

I've got older kids, and as a general rule have found it's better not to sweat the small stuff. This sort of regrssion is completely typical and normal. Just be glad that he's expressing himself this way, and not by stuffing the baby in a drawer! Re going into her room, a 3.5 year old is just learning to control his impulses'. In a loving way, without anger explain that in your family we respect privacy, clarify what privacy is.

Take dirty diapers immediately out to the trash. Put clean ones out of reach and tell him no. He's old enough to understand that they are not to be wasted. Give him a couple to play with if you like. They have the velcro tabs and are reuseable. Find a baby doll or stuffed animal that he can change. You can always pass the baby doll down to your daughter. My 3 1/2 yr old loves to change his big sister's babies.

This happend to our neice. When new baby arrived she matter of factly stated that "she thinks she'd like to go back to diapers." You're doing good not to react. My instinct says he wants some of that new born attention. Shower more attention on him in respect and enouragement of some of his big boy abilities.

Hi, J....

I think you and hubby are reacting just fine. Have you simply put the new diapers on a shelf like in the closet or someplace else he can't reach? It may be a bit more inconvenient for you and your husband when it comes to changing time, but it'd work! I think that if you put them "out of sight" they'll soon be "out of mind". As for the old ones, throw them away the moment you change your daughter. If they aren't available for him to try on, he can't! :-)

Good luck


Try this. If he wants to wear diapers, perhaps you can give him baby food, drink from a bottle, play with the baby toys. Put all the 3 year old goodies away and see if this changes his attitude. Explain how lucky he is that he is old enough to have teeth and get to have better things and privileges. Just try. Maybe his attitude will change. Perhaps he wants more cuddling and attention...

I think this would be a matter of makeing a rule and making him follow it. Something like he can have one diaper a day no more and if you find him using more, then you get to put him in time out or disiplin him for not listening (not wearing a diaper)
Good luck

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.