Whether you are teaching preschoolers or have children around you of this age, questions about their bodies and other bodies will emerge. While some parents and teachers think they are off the hook about talking to their children or students about sex until they get much older, this is so not true! In fact, we can use preschooler’s everyday questions and turn them into fabulous learning experiences. In this way, everyone can be a sexuality educator. The child’s curiosity will set the stage for the beginning of their sexuality education experience!
During the preschool years, a child becomes curious about his or her body. They may notice that their older brother looks different “down there” or wonder why their mommy has hair “down there.” This brings up my first point- I believe it is very important to provide children the proper name for body parts and sex organs. I am sure everyone can recall various pet names given to genitals while growing up, but didn’t these names more or less teach us that our sex organs were something to be embarrassed about or secretive of? What is so wrong with calling it a vulva or penis rather than a hoo-ha, willy, or your “privates”? Most individuals would have no problem telling their children that a knee was called a knee or that an elbow should be referred to as an elbow, right? The only difference here is the perceived vulgarity or shame associated with genitals.
When preschoolers ask you questions, try your best to offer them an age-appropriate, direct response. This works best with my young nieces and nephew. Bath time was always a time for questions and in turn an opportunistic time for sexual education. This is when you can explain that boys and girls are different in a number of ways and give them the correct names for their body parts. It is very important to try not to be embarrassed or ashamed during these learning experiences, as the children will most likely begin to believe our genitals are something to be ashamed of and kept a secret. This is the last thing we want! Teach them to be proud of the body they have and who they are! While teaching them to appreciate their bodies and sex organs, you could also use this opportunity to teach them about boundaries (keep in mind, on an age-appropriate level) and what is acceptable and not acceptable in terms of their behavior as well as the behavior of others. While perusing various lesson plans on teaching preschoolers the names and locations of body parts, I was disappointed but in no way surprised when sex organs didn’t make the cut. “Pin the Body Parts on Johnny or Susie” could be all the more beneficial for children if it included ALL of our body parts!
Books can be very helpful when talking to children about body parts, puberty, pregnancy, etc. It’s So Amazing! by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley is one of my personal favorites. Perfect for preschoolers, this book discusses body parts, sex and love, and pregnancy and childbirth. My favorite parts of the book: the drawings sure to fascinate children, the fact that the authors discuss all different types of love (i.e. love for pets, parents, friends), and the way in which homosexual relationships are placed on a level playing field with heterosexual relationships. SCORE!!! It’s Not the Stork! is another straightforward, picture-filled book for preschoolers written by the same authors. I love that this book explains that all different types of families and parents exist, not just man-woman-children. This way, children will learn to appreciate ALL kinds of families they or someone else may belong to…teaching love and acceptance can never occur at too young of an age!