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Talking to children about the facts of life can be tricky.
For some parents the experience is just a bit embarrassing. Others find even the idea of having 'the talk' downright scary. I suspect most of us at least spend some time wondering when we should start talking about it and how we should start the ball rolling. We worry about what our kids will say and how we'll answer their questions.
Books can help.
There are many, many books designed to help explain the facts of life to children. Which ones you choose - if any - will depend very much upon the approach you and your partner want to take and on the age of your child.
The books on this page are a selection which I think cover the subject pretty well for kids of all ages. They're intended as a helpful starting point to use while you talk to your child, not as a substitute for open conversation about the subject.
I mention this because, in days gone by, parents would give a book to their child and leave it at that, no discussion or questions allowed. Most people I think now realise this isn't a very helpful approach.
With my own children, my husband and I began by agreeing not to use silly words for body parts. Our boys learnt from their earliest days that they have a penis, not a 'doodle' and when we explained how babies are created we did it using the real terms for everything.
We actually explained how babies are made when they were about four, in very simple terms and taking a very casual, matter-of-fact approach.
They accepted it easily, asked a couple of questions and that was that.
So we never had 'the big talk.'
Starting to talk about the subject before the children were old enough to feel embarrassed worked well for us. As they got older, we then talked naturally and easily about various aspects of reproduction, extending their knowledge and making sure they had an accurate picture of how things worked. This approach also meant we got in first, before any of their friends or older kids could give them misleading or wrong info.
We didn't actually use any books but, reading the ones on this page, I realised that they are incredibly helpful for parents who really don't know where to begin. Whether you read these books to your child or simply use them to help you start getting your head around what to say, I hope you find them useful.
1. Mummy Laid an Egg!
According to these embarrassed parents, babies are made out of gingerbread, grown from seeds or found under rocks. So the children have to set their parents straight. This book includes short, simple, no-nonsense text and funny illustrations.
Best for children aged 3 - 7 years.
2. Where Willy Went
Willy the sperm lives inside Mr Browne. On the day of the Great Swimming Race, he swims faster than his 300 million friends to win the prize—a wonderful egg. Eventually the Brownes have a baby girl with Willy's smile.
Best for children aged 3 - 7 years.
3. How You Were Born
This is an older book but it does a really good job of explaining about how a baby grows and is born, using photos instead of drawings. It's a good book for expectant mothers to share with their older children as they prepare to welcome a new baby. Note that this book does not discuss conception but it's a good starting point for beginning to discuss reproduction with young children.
Best for children aged 4 - 8 years.
4. Where Did I Come From
This book is an oldie but a goodie. It may even be the book your parents shared with you! The book describes the reproduction process from conception to birth, using detailed cartoon drawings and straightforward language. It's a funny, honest book which does a good job of explaining everything.
Best for children aged 5 - 9 years.
5. A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex
This is a book for parents written by a family psychologist and a sexuality educator. It's a guide for teaching children and young people about periods, nocturnal emissions, dating, STDs, communication, trust and much more.
I suggest reading this book when your children are young as the info is useful for children of all ages. While this is not a book to actually share with your children, it's a book which will help make the conversations you have with them easier.
6. Being Born
This book speaks to your child about what he experienced while he grew inside his mother and when he was born. The illustrations are amazing photos by Lennart Nilsson of a baby's development in utero. Conception is described (but not illustrated!) and there is a clear photo towards the end of a baby at the point where its head has been born. I love the photo but everything is very clearly displayed, including mum's genitals and I know some parents may not like this.
This book can be hard to find in shops. My copy was an op-shop find but libraries should have it. It's a really amazing book, for adults as well as for kids, and is worth seeking out for the photos alone.
Best for children aged 4 - 15 years.