Where they’re at
Preschoolers are as intensely curious about other people’s bodies as they are about their own. “My five-year-old was playing in the sprinkler with a friend and he asked, ‘Why does his penis look different than mine?’” says Jean Smith, a mom of three in Aurora, Ontario. “He had obviously looked long and hard enough to notice there was a difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis.” Kids this age are also what Meg Hickling (Canadian sex educator) calls “magical thinkers.” “If they don’t get factual information, they make up a story to explain things to themselves.” They may decide, for example, that if you want a baby, you go to the hospital, where a nurse hands them out to anyone who asks.
What they need to know
While it’s important to answer all of your young child’s questions honestly (no stork stories, please), 5-7 year olds are not ready for a course in obstetrics. If you are asked, “Where do babies come from?” you may want to start with a simple answer: “A seed from the daddy and an egg from the mommy come together and grow in a special place in mommy’s tummy called a womb.” Some children will be perfectly satisfied with that, while others may demand to know more—like how the seeds get into mommy’s tummy in the first place. “Use your child as a gauge,” suggests Johnson. “You’ll know you haven’t given her enough information if she still has questions.”