Teaching your 3-5 year old Body Safety Awareness

Parents find it challenging to discuss body safety with their children, usually because it necessitates an explanation to a young child about their private parts and potentially unsafe body touching.  Yet it is as worthwhile and critical as teaching your child to brush their teeth or wash their hands before eating.  Introducing and reinforcing a few key safety concepts to your child will help protect them while building a bond of trust with you. 

Four Body Safety Truths Every Child Should Know by Age 5

  1. The use of the proper names for their private parts.  
  2. Teaching the child that their body is theirs and only theirs!  They are the only boss of their body.  
  3. Think of defining private parts of people’s bodies to the child as the parts that are covered by a bathing suit. These body areas aren’t to be seen or touched by anyone.   
  4. The child must absolutely know a few trusted people (e.g. parent/teacher/babysitter) that they can talk to if they are ever sad, scared, and especially if they need to talk about body safety if someone makes them feel uncomfortable. 

Body Parts Education and Discussion

It is very important for a child to understand proper names for body parts as well as private parts to help them understand what is “welcome” versus “unwelcome” touching.  It’s important they know the proper names for their body parts, especially their private parts.  They are not funny or weird names, everyone has them!  And it’s normal for kids to be sexually curious.   Help simplify it for your child by not introducing the concept of “good” versus “bad touching”, which may trigger guilt feelings within the child.  Knowing the names of body parts can help the child understand what is “private” and not to be touched by others.  It can also empower the child to be able to describe any interaction that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  Remember to keep it simple so the child can understand and avoid adult explanations.  

The Fact : Your Child Owns Their Body
Build the truth in your child that their body is their own, they are the boss.  If a child feels uncomfortable being hugged, kissed, or touched by any other people they need to know you support them in avoiding or resisting any unwanted touching by adults or other children.   Coach them that if they don’t want to be hugged by an individual, have them offer a “high five” instead as a more acceptable touch.   Teach that hugs are great within the family circle as you define it for the child.  Use everyday opportunities with your child to demonstrate proper touching within the family.  Talk with your child and reinforce that it is always OK for them to say “I don’t like that” when someone tries to touch them in a way that is uncomfortable to them.  

Private Parts of Our Bodies are Covered 

No one should ever stare at or touch the private parts of the child’s body, or show the child their private parts.  This includes other children as well as adults.  It’s not OK to play games with others private parts, or for anyone to take pictures of your private parts.  Remember that over 80% of abusers are known to the victim,  Teaching your child to yell “Stranger Danger” is not enough by itself.  

No one should ever ask your child to keep a secret about anything, especially if it has anything to do with touching the child’s body!  Teach your child the difference between safe secrets (a surprise birthday party) versus unsafe secrets (touching a child’s body and telling them not to talk about it).   

Know a Few People The Child Can Trust to Tell Anything

Talk with your child and identify the adults that they trust the most.  Remind your child that if they ever feel uneasy or someone made them feel unsafe, to tell one of the few trusted people that you and the child have previously identified.  Reinforce with your child about their trusted adults (e.g. teacher, parent, babysitter) and that they can talk to those people about anything that is bothering them. The child needs to be assured that they will never be in trouble for telling one of the trusted adults about their feelings.
Have those trusted few continue to build trust with the child day to day.  It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.  Spend time observing your child as well as talking with them. 

Talking With Your Kids About Body Safety

Talking about these 4 principles with your child will help set up a safety circle that will protect them should any potential threat arise.  It’s important to have ongoing discussions to introduce and reinforce these safety precautions, and always be mindful of “teaching moments” as some of these principles may come along in everyday life.  Finally, remember to keep these precautions “bite-size” and easy for your child to understand.  Your ongoing love and care of your child will go a long way to building that deep trust that can be so beneficial as your child navigates broader issues throughout their life.


Military One Source
Teaching Body Safety to Young Kids—Indiana Child Advocacy Centers and Chapter of NCA