Unfortunately, you can't keep her this innocent forever.

How to Handle Kids Playing Doctor

by Susan Revermann

You’ve just walked in and caught your little one playing doctor. You’re stunned, your mouth drops and you become speechless. Instead of freaking out, yelling and setting the groundwork for her to be ashamed of her exploration, try to stay calm. If you approach this issue by letting her know she can talk to you, she will feel comfortable discussing these kinds of things instead of feeling like she has to hide feelings and urges like this. This may be one of those “I’d rather eat glass than talk about it” discussions but you can do it.

1 Stay calm and don’t yell at the kids. Children start to become aware of their bodies and start being curious about their sexuality at a young age. Lynn Blinn Pike, from the University of Missouri, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, states that playing doctor around age 3 or 4 is common and an expression of normal sexual development. They also start to notice the differences between boys and girls at this age.

2 Talk to her about what is appropriate and what is not. Explain that playing doctor with her clothes off is not all right. Tell her that the areas that are covered by her swimming suit are private and should always be covered when she is playing. Explain appropriate and inappropriate touching. Hugs and holding hands is OK, while touches in the bathing suit area is not OK and she should say “No” and tell you immediately. If there was any objects that were inserted or played with during this “game,” you have to explain that unsafe and she shouldn’t use things like that.

3 Read your child an age-appropriate book about this topic. “My Body, My Self for Girls” and “My Body, My Self for Boys” by Lynda Madaras are two good ones. So is “It's Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris. Sometimes books can explain it better, especially when you’re at a loss for words on subjects like this.

4 Have a discussion about sexuality after reading him a book. Ask him if he has any questions and use simple terms and explanations to answer him. This can be a hard discussion, but you can get through it.

5 Ask her where she has seen this “game” before. There are plenty of suggestive things on the television and radio that may have given her the idea. If she has seen this behavior in real life, however, you will need to take further action. Remember to keep calm and provide a caring and safe environment to talk about this. Never make her feel ashamed for talking to you about these things. Contact a therapist, pediatrician or police if you have any further suspicions or questions about the topic.

6 Monitor his playtime with the other child if this happens more than once. Make sure the doors are always open and quietly be present in the background as he plays. Also keep an eye on what he is watching on television. Keep the programming at an age-appropriate level.

Items you will need

  • Books

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images