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Our Amazing Bodies — Every Part Deserves a Proper Name

by Peggy Brick

This month's learning activity includes the following sections:

Introduction

Young children today live in a very confusing world. They are inundated with sexual images in advertising, TV, videos, and the Internet, yet many children have not been taught the correct terms for their own genitals. This disparity can be a problem because children gain control of their small world by naming it. With each new word, the child grows in understanding and power. Adults discourage such growth when they leave the sexual parts of the body unnamed — for many girls, the genitals are merely "down there" — or when they give these parts silly names — "wee wee" and "pee pee" make as much sense as calling the elbow a "bend bend" and a finger a "point point."

When children learn the names of their body parts, they gain a sense of control over those parts. Once a sexual part is named, the child can talk about it, ask questions about it, understand its specialness. When they do not know the correct words for their body parts and do not have the sense of ownership that comes with that knowledge, children are vulnerable. It is difficult to feel in control of a "down there" or a "wee wee."

Of course, children are curious, and honest discussion about their bodies decreases the silliness that usually permeates talk about sexual topics. Although children may be giggly at the beginning of this lesson, they quickly settle down to a profound seriousness.

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Purpose

This activity helps children learn to integrate the sexual parts of their bodies with the rest of their bodies. The activity reinforces that the child is the owner of his/her body and must take responsibility for it. The teacher acknowledges that the private parts of the body are often ignored or given silly names, then provides the correct names.

Next the children are given an opportunity to draw male and female external genitals on outline figures. The teacher makes clear that these parts are private, that they feel good to touch, that touching is done only in private, and that, except for health reasons, no one has the right to touch someone else's private parts without permission.

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Time

Depending on the age of the children, this activity may take 30 to 40 minutes. Teachers may want to divide the lesson into two or three parts.

Materials

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Procedure

  1. Warm-up
    Tell the children that today we are going to learn about our bodies and all their different parts. Ask the children to touch and name the different parts of their bodies with you (non-private body parts for now). Set this activity to a musical beat.

    Below is a list of non-private body parts:
    head, forehead, ears, cheeks, chin, nose, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrist, hands, fingers, chest, ribs, back, waist, hips, stomach, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet and toes

    Start the activity by asking the children to repeat after you as you name and touch each body part in order starting with the head. Repeat the activity by mixing the order in which you name the body parts (i.e., knees, ears, waist, etc.)

  2. Ask the children, "Were there any parts of the body we didn't touch or name?" Take a few responses. Tell the group, "Yes, we didn't touch or name the parts of our bodies that are private parts, the parts covered by a bathing suit. Today we're going to learn the grownup names of these parts of our bodies."

  3. Take the bathing suit off the female drawing.

    • Ask: "What parts are the private parts?" You might start with the breasts. If the children call out a slang name such as "boobs," accept it and add, "Now that you are growing up, you can use the grownup name "breasts."

    • Ask the children to say the name "breasts." (Expect giggling.)

    • Ask why people laugh at names for these body parts. (Acknowledging the laughter validates the fact that people often feel uncomfortable discussing these parts and helps children feel OK.)

    • Say: "These are important parts of our bodies, and it's good to know the correct names for them."

    • Ask: "What does it mean that a body part is 'private'?" Explain that these parts are usually covered by a bathing suit and that, except for health reasons, you have the right to decide who can touch them — because they are private!

    • Point to the vulva (the outside genitals of the female) on the drawing. Ask the children if they know any names for this part. Again, accept slang, give the correct name, and ask the children to repeat the correct name.

    • Put the bathing suit back on the female figure. As you do so, note that we keep these parts covered because they are private.

  4. Take the suit off the male figure. (Expect more laughter — it's OK!) Repeat the previous procedure of asking the children for names of the private parts, providing the correct names, and having the children repeat each.

  5. Put the bathing suit back on the male doll, saying again that we keep these parts covered because they are private. Note that sometimes people touch these parts because it feels good to touch them, but because the parts are private, they are touched only in private places. Ask the children to suggest private places (i.e., their bedrooms and the bathroom).

  6. Lesson Review
    To assist the children in the next activity, remove the bathing suits from the boy and girl drawings and display them so they are visible to the group.

    Give each child a worksheet with two simple body outlines. Tell the group:

    • Here are two outlines of bodies — one for a girl and the other for a boy. First, decide which one will be the boy and which one will be the girl. Then give each a face and hair.

    • Second, give the boy and girl breasts. (As children, boys and girls have breasts that look the same.)

    • Third, give each body a belly button or navel.

    • Fourth, draw a penis and testicles on the boy and a vulva on the girl.

  7. When they are done, ask the children to show you their drawings so you can write in the names of each body part. Ask each child to name the parts as you label them.

  8. Encourage the children to show their work to their parents.


Parts of this lesson were adapted with permission from Brick, Peggy et.al., Bodies Birth and Babies: Sexuality Education in Early Childhood Programs. ©1989, Planned Parenthood of Bergen County. (973) 539-9580. All rights reserved.


About the Author
Peggy Brick, M.Ed., is a sexuality education consultant and trainer. Formerly a high school teacher, she has trained professionals nationwide, including thousands of pre-school and elementary school teachers. She has authored more than 50 articles and numerous teaching manuals on sexual health education, including: Bodies, Birth and Babies: Sexuality Education in Early Childhood Programs and Healthy Foundations, The Teacher's Book and Healthy Foundations: Developing Positive Policies and Programs Regarding Young Children's Learning about Sexuality. Email: PandABrick@aol.com

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