This topic has been the subject of countless jokes over the years. Perhaps the expression “talking about the birds and the bees” represents the most common version of our attempts to do this with some degree of biological accuracy. The jokes and devious explanations used by some parents also acknowledge our discomfort in dealing with the subject.
You didn’t indicate whether your 8-year-old was a boy or a girl, but it wouldn’t really make much difference anyway. The best approach is an honest one that doesn’t try to offer a college course in human reproduction in one session. Tell the child that, in a sheltered place inside their bodies, mothers carry a large number of tiny eggs (without shells) and that these eggs drop down into a space in their bodies called a womb or uterus about once a month. Those eggs can’t become babies until the father puts into one a special substance called sperm that comes out of his penis. When this happens, we say that this special egg is fertilized. It attaches itself to the mother’s womb and grows there for about 9 months. As the months pass, the mother gets bigger and bigger until the baby is finally ready to come out. At that time the baby will come out through a special opening, called a vagina, between the mother’s legs and will live with the rest of the family from then on.
That’s about all I’d say in a first go-round; go into other details (like the fact that this isn’t possible in young children, the penis has to be put inside the vagina, etc.) later. Perhaps you’ve heard the old story about the little boy who asked his father where he came from, got a long lecture on reproduction and sex, then said, “Thanks, Dad. But Jim said he came from Buffalo and I just wanted to know where I came from.” Don’t feel that you have to explain everything in one session, and expect to be asked additional questions more than once in the future.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.