Talking with your young children about sex/sexuality:
18mos -3yo: Give proper names for body parts and try to avoid making up names as that can lead your children to believe there is something bad about proper names or bad about that body part. Teach which parts are private for each gender by telling children parts covered by a bathing suit are considered private and show them pictures of boys in trunks and girls in two piece suits.
4yo-7yo: Use “teachable moments” like the birth of a new baby or when child uses a sexual word or reference or witnesses the birth of puppies. Initially try to see what the child knows. If they ask you a questions, reply by asking them what they think. Their answer should give you a place to start and then answer questions matter of fact. Do not overwhelm them with more information than they are seeking. Follow up by asking do they understand and do they have more questions. Remember you are going to repeat yourself many times on this topic and most complicated topics.
Curiosity is normal but children need direction in what is appropriate behavior. Do not become overly upset if you find similar age children playing naked but advise them not appropriate for future activities. Masturbation usually stops around 6yo and then begins around puberty. Remind children they can touch their private parts in private but not in the family room while playing a game with siblings or parents. Masturbation is not considered a problem behavior unless children prefer the activity to playing with other children or watching a movie with family, etc.
Pre-pubertal boys and girls: Talk with this age group regarding body changes that come along with puberty as well as taking care of their bodies including hygiene, nutrition, sleep, and exercise. See books listed below that will assist you with these discussions especially around function of body parts and in more detail answering the question of where babies come from and how they are made. I strongly recommend that you read the books prior to offering them to your children so you will know how the book presents each topic. Many schools and churches offer classes regarding puberty and sex education. These classes can be a good way to start the conversation with your children but don’t allow these classes to be the entire discussion.
Boys and Girls-Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Girls-The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Lee Schaefer ( The American Girl Book)
Girl Stuff (A Survival Guide to Growing Up) by Margaret Blackstone and Elissa Haden Guest
Boys-My Body, My Self For Boys by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras
What’s Going On Down There (Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask) by Karen Gravelle with Nick and Chava Castro