Three Year Old Boys and Girls Are Interested in Each Others’ Private Parts

Parenting September 14, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Parenting Tips for Your 35-36 Month Old Toddler

Toddlers begin to understand gender when they are around 2 ½ to 3 years old. At this time, toddlers begin to notice that there are differences between boys and girls. Being interested in these differences is normal. It is common for toddlers of this age to show each other their private parts or genitals or to ask their friends to show theirs.

It is important to know that this is the same curiosity your toddler has for other things he is learning about in his world. Try not to react with shock if you catch your toddler showing his genitals or looking at a friend’s. Reacting harshly can cause your toddler to feel shameful. Instead, calmly tell your toddler that his genitals are kept private. Help him and his friend move on to a different activity.

Tips for teaching your child about boys and girls:

  • Talk with him about his curiosity.
  • Explain that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Use the same tone of voice as you would when explaining other differences in his world like some people have red hair, some have black hair.
  • Get books for toddlers that help teach about these differences.
  • If your toddler seems more curious about genitals than other things, tell your toddler’s doctor. Sometimes this can be a sign of abuse.

Learn more about Your Toddler: 35-36 Months from Just In Time Parenting. You can also go to our Resource Links for additional information on child care and development.

Note to Parents: When reading this newsletter, remember: Every baby is different. Children may do things earlier or later than described here. This newsletter gives equal space and time to both sexes. If he or she is used, we are talking about all babies.
References: These materials were adapted by authors from Extension Just in Time Parenting Newsletters in California, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.