If you’re shocked that “sexuality education” and “birth to 3 years” are in the same sentence, you’re probably not the only one. However, teaching your children about their bodies and helping them to cultivate a healthy body image begins in infancy and is the foundation for a healthy sexual identity.
If you’re unsure about what sexuality education looks like for a baby or toddler, I’ve put together a short guide for you. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
PARTS OF THE BODY
- Teach appropriate names for genitals, i.e. “penis, scrotum, vulva, and clitoris.”
- Avoid using nicknames like, “hoo-ha, pee-pee, etc.” Making up such names gives kids the impression that those parts aren’t supposed to be talked about.
- Show them the differences between boys and girls (“Boys have a penis, and girls have a vulva”), but also show them the similarities.
- Talk about what different parts do: “Pee comes out of your penis/vulva” or “Poop comes out of your bottom/anus.”
TOUCHING THEIR GENITALS
- It’s perfectly normal for your baby or toddler to find their genitals and touch/tug on them.
- If this is during bath or diaper time, let it happen and don’t say anything about it being “bad” or “dirty.”
- The exception to this is in regards to hygiene during diaper time – clean genitals are okay to touch, but “sometimes Mommy or Daddy need to clean you up.”
- If you notice your child touching their genitals during an inappropriate time, DON’T talk to them about it or reprimand them. DO attempt to distract them and get them interested in another activity.
NAKEDNESS AND PRIVACY
- Most children are perfectly happy being naked at this age.
- Introduce boundaries about when it’s okay to be naked – “At home is fine, but the park is not okay.”
- Begin talking with your partner or spouse about how comfortable you are with your child seeing you naked, and at what age you’ll expect more privacy.
- Most children begin identifying with a specific gender (“I’m a boy/I’m a girl”) around age 2-3.
- Gender roles are those behaviors that children associate with a particular gender. (“Boys like dinosaurs; girls like dolls.”) Be proactive in deciding how you’ll want to approach gender roles with your child (the world around you will have lots to say).
GOOD PHYSICAL CONTACT
- Hug, kiss, and tickle your baby or toddler.
- Good, loving physical sensations are important for any child at any stage of development.
- Such physical contact is the foundation for loving physical affection when they are older and begin developing sexual relationships.
Overall, your goal for this age group should be to set the stage for a healthy relationship to one’s body. It’s really that simple, and it’s the foundation for a comprehensive sexuality education.