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8 Responses to Toddlers and Bodily Exploration

  1. Alicia C.  

    Wow… that’s all I have to say. I remember, when my now 13 y.o. was around 2. We used to play “Get your butt”, just a chase game – we’d act like we were going to get him and he’d run away screaming and laughing. It was fun. Then, one day, he ran up to my husband in the store, patted his butt, and ran away yelling (at the top of his lungs), “GET YOUR BUTT DADDY!!” Yeah, we got some pretty nasty looks. It was all in innocent fun, but we realized that society at large wasn’t going to stand for it. Instead of telling him he couldn’t play that game, we slowly evolved it into “Get your leg/arm/belly/etc.”
    Now that I have another toddler who is becoming very interested in body parts, we’re going through it all over again. In the library the other day, he informed the librarian that “I have a ‘winky’, but Mommy doesn’t.” I’m glad she is a mom, too, because she nodded her head and heartily agreed! I need to check out some of the links here because not everyone is going to react that way!

  2. Seonaid  

    Wow, Amy, what an awesome answer. Given how much trouble I had with this one, I’m going to try out some of your suggestions around shame and the body. Thanks so much.

    • Amy  

      You’re welcome, Seonaid. I offer a class called Empowered Sexuality for parents to work through this type of stuff. It runs deep. I don’t have a date scheduled for the next series, but I’ll post a link here when it’s ready if it’s okay with Dionna & Lauren. 🙂

  3. Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip

    I appreciate the advice and links included above, but I do have one follow-up question. If we tell our children, “We don’t touch other people’s vulva/penis/bottom” yet they are still of an age when they need assistance bathing, isn’t that sending a mixed message? Because as a parent, you will be touching your child’s body to help him/her clean it. This is a very thought-provoking topic, and I’m glad to see it addressed here. Thanks!

  4. jaime bower

    with regard to children exploring their bodies- if they are social “diddlers” as mine can be- take their hands gently into your own, make eye contact and compassionately say “I bet that feels good, but that kind of touching can be done in your room, alone.” There is no shame in admitting the touching they are doing to themselves feels good- it likely does- but you need to introduce a boundary that some touching is ok in public and other touching it better reserved for “private time”.

    as far as bathing and mixed messages go- it’s ok to add a layer of boundaries- I tell my 3yo that it’s ok for her to hug a friend and hold a hand, but only mommy daddy and the doctor are supposed to help take care of her body. She seems to get it and she doesn’t “molest” her friends past a hug or hand holding.

  5. Acrophile

    I always told mine that “your body is not a toy” at the early ages of exploration (2-3). No shame, just matter-of-fact. When they got older it became a talk about boundaries “No one is to touch your private body parts. NO one. Doctor or Mom or Dad do when we have to help keep you clean or healthy, but that’s it. They are covered for a reason. They are private. If anyone touches you, you come tell Mom or Dad right away and we’ll make them stop. You won’t be in trouble.”

  6. Momma Jorje

    The “get your butt” game is SO common! And I’ve seen where it can nearly get folks in trouble. I had a friend who picked his child up from preschool and the little boy came running out to him (his mom usually picked him up, so he was extra excited) yelling, “Get my butt, Daddy!”

    We also play “squishy butt” with our 1½yo when she is running around naked. It is good, clean fun around here. In fact, I walk around naked a lot and she takes great joy in poking my bum, too. Daddy, on the other hand, is a little less comfortable and stays in shorts.

    I like the suggestion of evolving the game to “get your arm, leg, etc” and we’re kind of doing that already as she is learning her body parts.

    Great question and answers, too!

  7. Sheila  

    My mom always just told me, “If it’s covered by your swimsuit, it’s for no one but you to touch.” That was all I needed to know — very simple from an early age!