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Talking to Kids about Body Parts & Functions
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Talking to Kids about Body Parts & Functions
My 6 year old son has been repeatedly asking me to show him where my pee comes
from. Obviously I can't show him. And he's also been asking about where babies
come from and all that stuff. I'm looking for a recommendation of some books with
pictures or drawings or something that would answer his questions. Any ideas?
Why can't you show him?? He's 6 years old. If you hide it from him
it will just make him more curious about why you're hiding it. It's
really not a big deal, it's just a body part.
Former Biology Student
My 4yo spends many happy moments online watching youtube medical
anatomy videos. some are diagrams, some are medical procedures.
She caught her Grandfather off guard by saying, ''yes, I think I do
need to go potty, my bladder is full!'' She caught her fathr off
guard by saying, ''Daddy, did you know TWO babies can be inside a
mama?'' Some videos are geared toward kids, some to medical
students some to patients. My child eats them up.
happy mama of future doctor?
''It's Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies,
Families and Friends'' by Robie H. Harris (Author) & Michael
Emberley (Illustrator) is a great book, and perfect for your son and
his questions. It's for ages 4 to 8. My four year-old and his
friend love this book. Check out reviews in Amazon.com and other
I disagree with your approach. You say ''Obviously, I can't show
him'' but that is your own opinion. There is nothing ''obvious''
about avoiding a normal conversation about the human body. For us,
obviously you can show and talk about pee and poo, penis and vagina,
just as you talk about mouth and teeth, eating and drinking. A
prudish approach will only send the message to your child that there
is something wrong with that topic.
Our children asked the same questions too at that age. We explained
to them how there is a hole in the penis and one in the vagina for
pee to come out, just like there is a hole in our butt for poop to
come out. We didn't have to ''show'' them anything in particular,
also because they had already seen earlier penis and vagina during
baths, showers or changing clothes.
As for where babies come from, our children learned (at about your
son's age) that just like plants grow from small seeds planted in
the earth, children come from small seeds that grow inside mom's
tummy. The seed comes from dad, who plants it in mommy's tummy where
it stays warm and safe. That's all they needed to know at that time,
and they were very happy with the picture.
In summary, genitals are natural parts of the body and conception is
an expression of love that creates life. If you don't make a fuss
out of it, your children won't. If you make it a big deal, they will
pick up on that. If you yourself were led to view the topic as dirty
or taboo, then you have a chance here to either continue the
negative approach, or to break the cycle and explain the world to
your children using kindness and reason. Keep in mind that even if
you keep it from them they will learn by themselves elsewhere anyway
(most likely in school). You might as well be the one who provides
the information with competence and care.
Hoping this helps -
You may want to look at a wonderful series of books by Robie Harris
and Michael Emberley that ''answer every question about birth,
babies, bodies, families and healthy sexuality'' (that is lifted
from the back cover of one of the books in our home library). The
titles are ''It's NOT the Stork'' for ages 4 and up, ''It's So
Amazing'' for ages 7 and up, and ''It's Perfectly Normal'' for ages
10 and up. We have the first two and will soon have the third.
They provide factual and age-appropriate information in a
comfortable and easy format. My 7 and 9 year old daughters love
them and they are a great jumping off point for conversations with
mom of curious kids
My girls are 3-1/2 and have the same questions. It all started when
they were reading a book with a cat in it, and the cat had kittens.
From there the flood of questions started!
This is a great book:
Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts
And there are others in the same series for older kids.
I've also picked up books about the human body in general secondhand -
bones and organs fascinate them too.
You can take your son to the Hall of Health in Berkeley and explore
how the body works.
And finally we have these very cool puzzles which come in boy and girl
versions. They are anatomically correct.
We have a 2 1/2 year old daughter who is beginning the process of
potty training. As part of this she has become much more curious about
her body in general and genitals particularly and asks lots of
questions about hers as well as about boys' genitals. Since she was
born we have referred to her genitalia (and everyone elses') as her
"po po." (Don't ask. We overheard a friend use it with her baby and
thought it was as good a word as any.) But now I feel a little dumb
(not to mention dishonest) using "po po" when she points and asks,
"what's this called, mama?"
So far, I've just been straightforward: that's your vagina. that's
your clitoria. those are labia. So, this poses a couple questions in
my mind. With grandparents, other kids, or even other adults in her
life, using "clitoris" or "labia" could create some discomfort. I
don't really care much about the discomfort of others around names for
body parts, but I'd hate for my daughter to pick up on it and draw the
wrong conclusions. "Vagina" seems incomplete and my mother's
old-fashioned "private parts" makes me shiver. The somewhat PC "yoni"
works in that it's inclusive of the whole labia, vagina, clitoris and
has a nicely unclinical and unerotic quality.
I'm uncertain what to say and would really love to know what other
parents of girls have done. Somehow boys seems simpler -- maybe in my
view there isn't as much of a taboo about talking about boys genitals
-- but the grass is always greener.
Why does "Vagina" seem incomplete? In my experience, in all but clinical
word is understood to be, "...inclusive of the whole labia, vagina, clitoris
and has a nicely
unclinical and unerotic quality."
With my now 3.5-year-old girl, we use the descriptive
and poetic term of "little flower". (my invention).
We've been refering to my 2-month-old boy's as "little
chick" and "little egg" (a loose translation from
When our now 2 1/2 year old daughter was a baby, we began referring to her
know where that came from) and then I got kind of a shock when she (of course)
speaking and using it herself. Then the dilemma: Sure it's cute at 2, but
etc. (insert pc rant here) and was that *really* how I wanted her to refer to
her genitals? So
I copped out and brought in the good old vagina: inaccurate and overly
somehow above reproach.
I like your solution of teaching the correct terms for all the external and
internal parts of
female genitalia as well as adopting a "catch-all". The only thing is, the
very non-pc "pooty"
is likely to be our "yoni".
How about vulva? That refers to everything that's visible. She's not seeing
vagina without a speculum anyway.
I look forward to reading others' responses on this one. I just wanted to
suggest that you
reconsider "private parts." We say "privates" in our family as a generic term
for boy's and
girl's genitalia and then also use more specific, "clinical" terms (though
clitoris yet, hmmm). I think it's useful to have an umbrella term, and
"private parts" or
"privates" works because they are/should be PRIVATE and so it's easy to tie in
teaching about touching.
A friend of mine once picked up her preschooler and was told by the teacher
that she got a
"boo-boo on her wee-wee". The daughter corrected, "No, I scraped my vulva." :)
We've used "yoni" for 8 years. I liked it better because it didn't have any
overtones for me
and it just sounds nicer. There's definitely an advantage to using a word that
everyone understands (particularly if your parents are like mine, extremely
for when your kids suddenly have a need to discuss their genitalia in a place
not be friendly to that). We also always explained to them that other people
use the word
"vagina", so that they would understand and use that word too. As long as your
provider understands the word, there's no drawback as far as I can see. We
"private parts" frequently, as I think it does communicate an important
didn't have the shame overtones to my ear.
You mentioned that your daughter was potty training. Is she asking
what her sex organs are, or just what she wees and poos out of? What
about 'girlie willy' and 'bottom'? Equally 'private parts' seems to
encompass the WHOLE region and lets your daughter know that it is for
her only and not for anyone else.
This topic has interested me ever since a psychoanalyst friend told me
(long before I had a child) about a study which showed that most parents
don't give their daughters _any_ name for their genitalia, whereas almost
all of them give their sons a name for what they have. She thought this
contributed to a sense of inadequacy among girls -- that they simply lack
something which boys have, rather than having something special of their
own. She said that she used "vulva" with her daughter. At the time I
thought this sounded much too clinical, but that's what we ended up using
with our daughter -- we tried some "cuter" alternatives but somehow they
didn't stick, and "vulva" has ended up sounding quite natural to us. But
I think the important thing is that they should have _some _word for it.
I don't have daughters but I was one of four girls, and I had a good laugh
about this thread. I grew up in the South and my very uptight mom used the
word "fanny" to cover everything from stem to stern on us girls. But when
my brother came along, we were advised that he had a "penis" in addition to
his "fanny" (tush). So we invented for ourselves the more precise terms
"front fanny" (vulva) and "back fanny" (tush) which provoked mysterious
laughter from our parents' friends. As an adult I learned that the
term "fanny" is considered vulgar in Britain and got a little pleasure
in telling my Anglophile Mom about this feature of her supposed polite term.
Perhaps this is too late for inclusion, but I so enjoyed the entries about
what to call
your daughter's "private parts" and I agree wholeheartedly with the person who
the important thing was to give it a name, no matter what. How can you talk
something if you don't have a word for it? Some friends of ours, who do not
daughter of their own, gave us the excellent suggestion of "minky" for vulva.
been assimilated well in our family vocabulary, as I think it has a certain
appeal on all
sorts of levels.
this page was last updated: May 13, 2012
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