When is the right time to talk to children about sex?

The other day I posted on my Facebook page about vibrators being on sale in Poundland. I thought it was wrong for them to be prominently on display in the Valentines section, surrounded by cuddly toys and fluffy pillows. I know that if LP or Little Man saw a Bunny Vibrator they would read the box and ask what it was. I’m all for saying it’s a toy for grown ups but, I’d rather a shop didn’t put me in that position in the first place.

However, in reading the responses to my post it made me think more about our children and their knowledge of sex. Which, actually, is no knowledge at all. At 7 and 5 I haven’t felt that they need to know about sex. At the moment babies come from Mummy’s tummy and that’s been an acceptable answer. For me, I want the children to stay innocent and with no knowledge of adult topics for as long as possible – sex is just one of those topics. So much in the news I try and shield them from as well.

But, I know I am a minority. I am sure within the next couple of years we will be talking more with LP about her body, sex, puberty, periods and all that sort of thing to prepare her for her teenage years and everything that comes with that.

For now though, she is a princess loving, doll playing, cartoon watching little girl with not a care in the world. So should she, at 7, already know what sex is?

My gut tells me no, no she shouldn’t.

But why should she? Because, simply, there is no reason for her to know.

Yet, on my Facebook post people had already told their not even five year old children about sex. But not even just about sex – about the fact it’s something that adults enjoy doing. They would have no qualms about explaining to a four year old that a vibrator is used to give adults pleasure during sex.

And hearing that makes my blood run cold.

Honestly, why does a four year old need to know about the pleasures of sex? Why do children of infant school age need to know exactly what vibrators are used for? What is a child of that age going to do with that knowledge? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and young children don’t have enough life experience for that knowledge to be safe in their hands.

I am all for being open and honest with children but there is a line – a line between what children should know and what is too much for them to know. I really think that sex education needs to be aimed at the child’s age – and the thought that there are parents out there teaching four year olds so much about sex is absolutely horrifying for me.

I always see people up in arms that shops sell bikinis for toddlers, over-sexualising a child’s wardrobe. I see them complaining about padded bras for pre-teens and about shops advertising sexy underwear on the High Street where children could see it. And I agree wholeheartedly. We need to let kids be kids and not force them to grow up too soon.

And a knowledge of sex goes hand in hand with that. Why are we telling children the ins and outs of sex way before they need to know about it? Without knowledge of something they cannot show any interest or curiosity in it. So why teach them about it so young?

Young children should know the names of the parts of their body. They should also know about consent – and how you do not touch other people in certain places or show your private parts to other people. Sadly, they need to know what isn’t right when it comes to other people and their bodies so they can tell you if something has happened that they didn’t think was right. They can also know where babies come from – and explaining that is very much dependent on the child and what explanation a parent wants to go with at any given time.

But I feel deep inside me that teaching an infant school child that sex is something fun that adults do and something where they use special adult toys to make it even more fun is not something anyone should be doing. It’s giving a child way more information than they need and, honestly, I don’t remember vibrators ever being mentioned in sex education in school – it’s just not something that children need to be taught about.

So let’s get up in arms about children being sexualised too young but let’s make sure that we aren’t contributing to that at the same time. I would hate for my child to come home from school, aged five, having been told by a friend all about sex and vibrators. And I am sure many other parents – and even the school teachers – would feel the same.

There is no right or wrong age for children to learn about sex but it needs to be tailored to their age and what they need to know at the time. Without lying to them and without turning it into a really fun experience that they can’t wait to try for themselves. As parents we have a duty of care to let our children have a childhood – and knowing about the pleasures of sex has no part in that.

When is the right time to talk to your children about sex?


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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  1. I agree. Mine does know about the technicalities of sex in that a man and a woman come together to make a baby and the how it actually happens but we haven’t called it sex. And he’s known that from age 4 because I was answering his questions. At 8 so he is getting to the age where I think I probably need to tell him more given that some girls are going to be going through puberty over the next year or so and I’d rather we taught it than rely on what they get taught in school when we have no control over that. But trying to find a suitable how your body works and puberty book without it covering more grown up topics like going more into relationships and complicated stuff about changing genders etc is really hard. Those are the things that I don’t believe he needs to know about yet.

  2. I have three children. The eldest being 14 and very gifted academically he asked questions very young about how babies were made. We explained the science of it and just left off the actual act of sex itself and said it was something we would talk about when he was older. He accepted that. I did however decide to talk to him about sex the summer before high school. I had been very naive and left it too late and he had been told in the playground by a child who loved the fact he knew something that my child didn’t. My child didn’t confess this until he was 13 and it had effected him. I feel sad this happened. I feel guilty that I should have told him sooner. With my daughter I told her the summer before starting year 6 and explained it wasn’t something to discuss with her friends. I haven’t told her about sex toys. I just don’t think that’s appropriate for a child. My 7 year old has asked us questions and I’ve just explained that ladies have eggs and Daddy’s have tadpoles and they make babies together. He’s asked how they do but I’ve just said in a special way. He’s also asked about ivf which I’ve explained as my sister has ivf and little ears hear grown ups talking.

    1. I think you sound like you’re going about things in a great way that works for your children and you as a family. I know that by year 6 most children learn about the science of reproduction/sex from school sex ed etc and so I know that by then we’ll be talking to our children too – but no, not about sex toys either! x

  3. I agree Lily is 4 and I would not be happy seeing the vibrators and having to explain (well I wouldn’t explain I’d just say it’s for adults leave it at that and swiftly move on!)

    I do think shops should be more considerate about where they place things.

  4. I’m in shock. Shock about Poundland and shock that someone would share all of that with their kids. I don’t think I knew about vibrators until I was well into my teens haha and I’m fine with that. Kids do not need to know about this stuff so young. It’s not appropriate and is beyond their capacity.

  5. Great article Donna, I agree the vibrators should no way have been on display in a prominent display, children so do not need to know about them for a long time. When ever my children ask I try to ask as honestly but as simply as I can – babies come from a mummy’s tummy, it got there via a special cuddle. Like you we have chatted about consent and keeping private parts, private. My son (7) really took me aback this week though and he said I know it’s to do with a man’s penis and a woman’s vagina but that’s all I know. I can only guess they have told him at school? When he asked I said that’s right as I didn’t think I should lie, but also kind of left things there and didn’t go into the detail. I do think at 7 it should be ok to just leave things as a special cuddle if I’m honest I know soon enough I will be talking to him about puberty, but for now I want to keep him as innocent as I can.

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