This page shares resources for support parents and caregivers of young children that can be downloaded, printed and shared. Toronto Public Health can also offer workshops to parents and caregivers in child care, schools, and other community settings on raising sexually healthy children and teens.

To book workshops for your community group, please contact or 416-338-7600.

The information below can be found in Tips for Talking about Bodies, Boundaries, & Safety.

  • Provide nurturing touches and interactions that support children’s positive feelings of self and others.
  • Provide a variety of opportunities for all children, regardless of gender.
  • Talk to children with language and ways that embrace all genders.
  • Teach children to accept people’s differences and uniqueness.
  • Teach children scientific words for all body parts, including penis, vulva, breast, anus, etc.
  • Teach children that their bodies belong to them and that everyone has the right to decide who can and cannot touch their own body.
  • Welcome children’s questions by telling them, “I am glad you asked me!” or “What a great question!”
  • Encourage everyone in the family (children and adults) to share their feelings.
  • Help children to understand how their attitudes and behaviours affect others. Remind children that it is okay to stop and rethink their behaviour, and perhaps even change their mind.
  • Tell children clearly and directly what is and what is not appropriate behaviour, without making them feel guilty or ashamed.
  • Be a positive role model for children.

The information below can be found in Answering Children’s Questions about Sexuality (also available in French)


  • Children are curious about sexuality.
  • Children see things around them all the time that are confusing.
  • By welcoming questions, a child learns that they can come to you when something is confusing instead of turning to sources that may not give accurate or caring answers.
  • This is a way of building a healthy caregiver-child relationship.
  • This is an opportunity to share values with children (e.g., honestly, self-esteem).
  • Answering questions in a positive way reinforces that sexuality is a wonderful and valuable part of who they are.


  • Answering in a way that boosts the child’s self-esteem – “What a great question!”
  • Ask the child what they know, think, feel…
  • Find a book on the topic of the child’s questions and read the book with the child.
  • Take time to think about the answer. This could be a few minutes or a few days, as long as you help the child get an answer.  You may want to talk with another adult about how you might answer a difficult question.
  • Acknowledge when you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, if you are.
  • Acknowledge when you don’t know an answer and will find out.


  • Whenever they ask!
  • Even if you do not know the answer, you can respond by saying, “Good question. I will try to find the answer and let you know.”
  • Anytime can be a ‘teachable moment’ (e.g., watching a TV program, seeing a pregnant person, when a pet has babies).
  • Ask questions even if they don’t – “What do you think?”, “What do you already know about that?” – without forcing them to talk. Just asking says that you can be someone to talk to when they are ready.

What to say?

  • Keep it accurate, honest, short, and simple.
  • Use words and ideas that the child can understand at their developmental level.
  • Be positive – let the child know that you are glad they came to you with their questions.
  • Avoid lectures and angry talk.
  • Respond to questions about your person sexual activities by teaching about privacy – “You asked if I’d ever had sex. There are some things that are private; you will have private things too that you will not share with everyone.”

The information below can be found in  Sexual Development in Children (also available in French)

Birth to Age Two

  • begin to develop a positive or negative attitude towards own body
  • start to learn expected behaviours for different genders
  • explore body parts, including genitals
  • experience pleasure from touch to all parts of the body, including genitals
  • may experience an orgasmic response to rubbing of genitals, perhaps against a toy or blanket
  • erections can occur while fetus is still in the uterus or shortly after birth
  • vaginal lubrication and clitoral erections may occur shortly after birth

Ages Three and Four

  • enjoy exploring their body parts (including genitals, nipples, anus) and self-pleasuring; may touch these body parts when in public places
  • show curiosity about bodies; try to look at people when they are nude or undressing
  • engage in body exploration games (aka. playing doctor) with friends or siblings
  • interested in touching people’s breasts
  • experiment with adult words including ‘bathroom words’ and swear terms
  • establish a clear belief about their own gender, but also explore various gender roles through play (i.e., dressing up, dramatic play)
  • curious about how babies are made but still develop their own ideas about where babies come from regardless of what they are told

Ages Five to Eight

  • learn what is acceptable/unacceptable to adults and which adults are comfortable with the subject of sexuality
  • more affected by external influences (e.g., peers, media)
  • show a strong interest in gender roles that are often stereotypes
  • may continue body exploration and self-pleasuring
  • try to look at people when they are nude or undressing
  • may become modest
  • may use sexual language to tease, shock, joke, and/or impress friends

Ages Nine to Twelve

  • may continue body exploration and self-pleasuring; aware of erotic element of activities
  • may show new interest in physical appearance
  • increasing influence by peers and media; may show interest in sexual media
  • may show signs of puberty; may have fantasies and crushes

The information below can be found in Resources for Raising Sexually Healthy Children (also available in French).

The Discussing Menstruation with Young Children Resource is for all parents or guardians of children who are showing early signs of menstruation and are looking for support to discuss menstruation with their children. If this topic is discussed in schools, it is generally discussed near the end of grade 5.

Some children may have started menstruating before this time. This document is meant to encourage communication with children and is not meant to replace medical advice. Parents and guardians are encouraged to discuss their children’s growth and development with their child’s doctor.

This document uses body part words such as vagina, uterus and breast rather than
language that is gender specific, for example ‘girls get their periods’. Toronto Public Health respects people’s use of other words to suit their identities and cultures.