by Maria Lianos-Carbone

“Mommy, do you have a pee pee?”, my 4-year-old asked me the other day.

I didn’t know how to respond.

“Umm, no, girls have…. uh….”

I just couldn’t say the word. It sounded too weird. Was it okay to use a nickname? Or should I have used the proper term?

When I was growing up, I learned nicknames in Greek when translated mean “little bird” for a boy’s privates and “butterfly” for a girl’s.

But in today’s day and age, I thought it would be a good idea to see what other people are explaining to their kids about body parts and other fun questions that can catch a mom off-guard, as well as what the experts say. This is what I discovered.

The Name Game

Most experts say to use the correct anatomical names, ie. penis and vagina and not “wee-wee” or “cupcake” or any other nickname you’ve decided to use. Stating the words matter-of-factly will help the child learn to use the words in a direct manner without any embarrassment. It will also help children feel more comfortable talking about sexual topics. The correct names should be given for both male and female parts; one without the other would be unfair or could send the wrong message.

When your child asks why boys and girls are different, it’s okay to simply explain that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. You can say that nature or God made boys and girls that way.

Susanne Ayers Denham, a developmental psychologist, says you can point out that each and every person is unique: your best friend’s eyes are green while hers are brown, and Daddy’s nose is smaller than Mommy’s. In a similar manner, boys’ private parts look different from girls’. If you keep the explanation simple, and don’t act embarrassed, your child won’t be either.

Where do babies come from?

Sooner or later, this question will pop up. How do you respond? The stork? God? The answer can be short and sweet. Be honest but keep the answer simple. One way is to explain is by saying, “you were made in Mommy’s tummy (or uterus, to be correct) and that’s where you grew until you were ready to be born.” If your child wants more details, you can explain that Daddy’s sperm joins Mommy’s egg and then a baby begins to grow. When your child is old enough to ask for more specifics, then he/she will be ready to hear more details.

What are Mommy and Daddy doing?

If your child walks in on you and your spouse having sex, talk to him/her. See how much the child actually saw; if it wasn’t much, you may just explain that Mommy and Daddy were kissing and hugging. If your child seems worried or afraid, it is important for you to explain that you were not being hurt. Dr. Anthony Wolf, psychologist and parenting author, says to stick to the simple and honest approach to explaining what sex is. You can say, “Sex is something that adults do. It’s a way of making babies, and it’s something that they enjoy doing.”

Playing Doctor

Don’t make a huge fuss and overreact, and do not scold – simply direct your child’s attention to another activity. Later, you can explain that even though he/she is interested in his/her friend’s body, people have to keep their bodies covered in public.

Private Time

Tell your child that you understand that what he/she is doing feels good but that certain activities are meant to be done in private. Suggest that he wait to be alone in his room if he feels like touching himself.

It’s also a good time to explain to your child that their bodies are their own and that no one should touch them inappropriately. Tell them that if anyone ever touches them in a way that feels bad or wrong, they should tell that person to stop and then tell Mommy or Daddy about it.


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

1 Comment

  1. Lindsay Brewda Reply

    This is great! I just had my 4 year old ask me some of these questions this past week. I stumbled for a minute and then answered, but I got stuck on the how do babies come out!

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