[ April 8, 2015 by Bryan Harris 0 Comments ]

Sex Education for Children (Best Practices)

Though sex education for younger children (under nine years old) has not been widely adopted in the United States, there have been a number of studies[1] in recent years in support of starting sex education during preschool. In addition, both SIECUS’ Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education and the National Sexuality Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching this population. Even if you do not work with this age group, understanding the best practices for teaching them will help you respond to parents, guardians, and caretakers’ concerns about their children’s inevitable questions about where babies come from.

Sex education for younger children looks very different from the discussions that are encouraged for middle and high schoolers. For this age group one of the most important things you can do is teach them the rules about appropriate sexual expression.[2] Examples of these rules include:

  • Where they can touch themselves (e.g. We Don’t Touch Our Vulvas at the Table).
  • Asking before touching anyone else.
  • Respecting ‘no’ as an answer.
  • Not harming anyone else.
  • Not putting objects in your body.
  • Using the proper terms for body parts.

Modeling these rules is equally important. For example, say a child has come out of time-out and you ask for a hug as an apology. If the child says, “No,” it is important to respect that response. You also may offer an alternative (e.g. a high five) as a way to begin modeling negotiation skills.

When answering children’s questions, provide correct, age-appropriate information.  Both Planned Parenthood and the Mayo Clinic provides specific questions and answers that children of different ages may ask. Lastly,  and  are useful to explain different concepts.

Additional Resources[3]
Age-Appropriate Sex Education for Children
Sex Education for Pre-Schoolers
Questions and Answers about Sex
The Hormone Factory (children 10-12)



[1] Igras, S. M., Maciera, M., Murphy, E., & Lundgren, R. (2014). Investing in very young adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy, and Practice, 9(5): 555-569.

[2] Appropriate, in this case, from the perspective that sexuality is a healthy and innate part of everyone from birth.

[3] Most of these resources are geared towards parents; however, the concepts and key messages are useful for educators.

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