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Private Parts & Preschoolers

Preschoolers are real adventurers.  One 5 year old I know is extra careful when out hiking with her mum. In the trail, she turned to her mum and whispered, “We can’t go down that path, there are penises and vaginas down there.”

“What do you mean?”

“If we walk down there we will bump into a bunch of,” whispering again, “penises, vaginas, and bums.”

Her mum attempts a neutral face and says, “Why do you think that?”

“Because,” she said, “the sign says Private Property.”

After a Shift Education Askable Adult workshop—learn how to talk about sexuality with your kids—a parent told me this funny story about how her daughter kept mixing up ‘private property’ signs with ‘private parts’ of the body. Her daughter was very grateful for every private property sign, for it was saving her from the fate of witnessing penises and vaginas hanging around down ‘certain’ trails. Beware of public nuance.

Kids love to share their perspectives about bodies, sexuality, and relationships during Body Science class. In a recent puberty lesson, a young boy shot his hand into the air with urgency, then stated with admiration, “my dad has tons of hair and a really big penis.” Thank you for sharing, I said, I bet your dad really loves you, (and your openness). Inner thought: I’ll be sure to introduce myself to your dad at parent night and mention, “I really like your shirt, and I hear you have a lot of pubic hair and a large penis. Way to keep hair alive in a hairless world,” and high five.

Step One: Ages 0-6 years

You may or may not feel uncomfortable using the correct scientific words for the male and female genitalia. It doesn’t matter what your feeling is about a vegetable — we know they’re good for our bodies so we keep trying to feed them to our kids. Using the proper names for the body (all of the body) is the same — even if it feels weird.

The Words

Vulva (outside covering of skin – what you can see)

Clitoris (a highly sensitive organ made out of nerve endings the same tissue as the penis, erectile tissue, that can become erect and then relax)

Urethral Opening or Urethra (the pee hole, where urine comes out and the tube that comes from bladder to outside of body)

Vagina (the opening between the legs, a muscular tube that sits closed and can expand)

Penis (organ made out of erectile tissue, that can become erect and then relax, also sensitive, and contains Urethral tube)

Anus (the strong muscular opening when solid waste is expelled, poo) Kids will laugh, adults will laugh

Good joke to end with: “Get Uranus outta here. There are two Anuses, one is the planet, Uranus, and the other is your Anus, where the poo or stool comes out!”

Body science should be funny and fun. Everyone has the right to understand how their body works. The parts that feel good, the parts that hurt, and who to talk to when something feels uncomfortable.

Recommended Books

Follow for more on how to talk about private parts.