Growing up, I remember hearing other kids talk about their genitals with strange euphemisms like doodle, willy, front-bum, and cookie. Although these names seem cute and less confronting for parents, they pose problems.
- They make normal body parts and functions shameful
- They can create confusion, particularly if children need to report situations that make them uncomfortable with a trusted adult
- They are, well, a little bit silly.
Imagine if another child at school had touched your child’s “cookie” and they reported it to the teacher – this would create confusion and take away from the seriousness of actually dealing with the problem. So, how do you teach children the correct names for their body parts?
Hang on… let me just…
These beautiful diagrams come from The Amazing True Story of How Babies are Made by Fiona Katauskas, which I reviewed here.
It is really important to ensure that our own understanding of private parts is correct. You may giggle, but the amount of times I have heard an adult telling me about how they need to shave their vagina demonstrates the confusion some people still have about the different body parts (note – vagina is internal, vulva is external). Even though I understand the reproductive anatomy, I always do a quick brush-up before I teach sex education every year at school – you just never know which questions will come up.
The best and least confronting way to teach children about their private parts is through picture books. Here are some of the best ones I have seen for getting started on this topic:
Who Has What? All About Girls’ and Boys’ Bodies by Robie H Harris
This is an early-childhood book that introduces some of the differences between boys’ and girls’ bodies, a nice introduction to private parts and body differences. Buy here.
Amazing You! by Dr. Gail Saltz
Definitely appropriate for preschoolers and early childhood, simple and well-illustrated. This book also talks about conception (how a sperm and egg are made, released and then join together from the male/female bodies respectively), but sex is not mentioned. Buy here.
Everyone’s Got a Bottom by Tess Rowley
This book provides a simple introduction about private parts, and also touches on consent and keeping your body safe with rules and privacy. The rhyme that runs through the whole book is, “From my head to my toes, I can say what goes.” The illustrations of body parts are very simple and appropriate for early childhood. Buy here.
I’m a Boy/I’m a Girl – Special Me by Shelley Metten
These two books provide anatomical details of boys’ and girls’ bodies, without going into sex. They are aimed towards 5-7 year olds. There are also books that follow on in this series that explore puberty and sex. Have a look at these books here and here.
It is so important to get these conversations started, using the correct language and without pet names. That way, children won’t feel ashamed to ask questions or report concerns when they need to. Happy reading…. and talking!