The Naked Truth About Toddler Curiosity
“I’m a girl and mommy’s a girl.”
“What’s that, boobies? Can I see?”
“That’s my private. Where’s yours?”
They’re not ordinary questions, unless of course, you’re living with a toddler.
The toddler stage is a precious, yet somewhat unpredictable time. Toddlerhood is a blend of rapid cognitive development, increased independence and sometimes, downright hilarity when it comes to the phrases your preschooler might utter.
Two-year-olds have a bad rap for not being able to keep their emotions in check, which can definitely induce panic for parents whose children are on the brink of the ‘terrible twos.’ But there’s another unique milestone that doesn’t get as much attention and it has nothing to do with a child’s short fuse.
My youngest is now interested in learning about reproductive body parts. She’s become fascinated with the distinct physical differences between boys and girls. She’s two-and-a-half, talking up a storm and constantly spewing statements about her ‘private parts.’ She’s at the prime age when children begin to develop a sense of individuality. Much like her pint-sized peers, she’s seeing differences between her body and others, and she’s not afraid to voice her opinions.
Every parent has his or her own approach to educating young minds about the anatomy. I’ve always been upfront and somewhat clinical when it comes to teaching my children about their bodies. Others may find it more appropriate to adopt pet names for private parts. Either way, it’s important your child has a positive view of his or her body. Experts warn against ignoring your little one’s curiosity, since it might carry a negative tone and leave him or her feeling ashamed. Instead, try engaging with your child, explaining age-appropriate differences between boys and girls. Just remember, your toddler may want to show off their new vocabulary, no holds barred.
Talking about ‘privates’ in public
My child has become quite ambitious in the use of her new and improved body jargon and is now often posing her questions and statements in public. No place is off limits; the grocery store, doctor’s office, you name it. But hearing those very private words in public might leave you red in the face. It’s important to react to your child’s questions appropriately. If their statements are followed by an eruption of laughter due to a parent’s sheer embarrassment while waiting in line at the drug store, it’ll likely encourage your child to follow up with more inappropriate and seemingly never-ending queries.
During the early years, parents might decide to step into the bath or shower with their toddler. It’s definitely a time saver but doing so can raise questions from little inquisitive minds. I’m a fan of running a two-for-one bath, where both of my children enjoy their nightly ritual together. I have, however, noticed a change in my daughter, where her focus has moved from playing with her bath toys to studying her older brother. She’s suddenly very aware and interested in the fact that she and her brother have physical differences below the waist. It’s also sparked a fresher, naked line of questioning, but I’m comforted knowing this discovery phase is actually part of a child’s normal development. It’s also prompted more conversation about the importance of respecting our bodies. I’m a firm believer it’s never too early.
Curbing your toddler’s curiosity
Rest assured your child’s relentless barrage of body questions will soon taper off. Health experts say children begin to develop a sense of modesty between the ages of five and eight, and might even begin to show signs of embarrassment about baring it all in front of others. When this develops, it’s best to respect your child’s privacy and in turn, it should signal a change for adults to act more discreet.
I’ve lost count how many times my toddler has asked me to explain each body part, but I know this phase will soon be a distant memory. Now, I’m tasked with age-appropriate responses to my five-year-old son’s most recent interest:
“Mommy, where do babies come from?” “So, how do you make a baby?”
And so it begins.
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