Your preschooler is naturally curious about everything, and that includes his own body and, frequently, his friends' bodies, too. He's becoming more aware of physical differences between people, including what makes boys different from girls and whether all bodies look just like his own. Playing doctor gives him a chance to find out the answers to some of those questions.
Child psychologists and pediatricians say that while this behavior may make you uncomfortable, it's perfectly normal and, unless your child becomes truly obsessed about his or a friend's genitals, not a cause for concern.
It's important not to over-react or punish your child for playing doctor. Instead, calmly explain that private parts are private, not to be shown to other people. Reassure him that you are always there to answer any questions he might have.
Your Child's Body Awareness
Your young toddler views his body as one of the many fascinating things he's learning to label. If you point to his nose, eyes, ears, and then point to your own, he'll soon join this game. These comparisons will help him learn the names of body parts. As his language skills improve, he'll be able to point to a part of the body and tell you what it is.
Your Two-Year-Old's Body
Around his second birthday, your child's interest in his body will increase. He'll probably delight in his physical abilities, running, jumping, and climbing all over the place; he may take risks for the sheer fun of it. He'll like physical games, such as wrestling and tickling.
At the same time, two-year-olds can be very protective of their bodies. They frequently worry over the tiniest cuts and bruises. They seem to be concerned about the boundary between what belongs inside their bodies and what should stay outside.
Adhesive bandages work like magic on small injuries, reassuring many two-year-olds that their bodies are intact again. Your child may even want adhesive bandages for little invisible hurts. Many two-year olds love to put bandages on stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys. Your child's concern for his body--and his preoccupation with bandages--may continue through his preschool years.
Your Curious Preschooler
As your child moves through the ages of three to five, his curiosity about his body will be intense. He'll begin to make comparisons, and he'll be interested in other people's bodies as well. He'll probably wonder how bodies are made and how they work. He may question you about different body functions. Your preschooler's interest in bodies will lead him to explore his own. He'll probably touch every part of himself. During this period, he may become aware for the first time of the physical differences between the sexes. He may be interested in a book or chart that shows male and female bodies; this gives you an opportunity to teach him the labels for any body parts he wants to identify.
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.