Is the behavior of my 3 year old son and his friend something to worry about?

Dear Stop It Now!,

My son and his friend, both 3 years old, were playing in my son’s bedroom.  When I went in to check on them they were jumping up and down on the bed without clothes on, giggling  and seemed to be having fun.  When they saw me, they started giggling even more and ran to get their clothes back on.  Is this normal behavior for 3 year olds? When my daughter was 3 she never did this. 

Dear Concerned Parent,

It's great that you're observing your young son's behaviors and asking questions to help build a safe and healthy environment.

Normal Sexual Curiousity

It’s quite common for kids of this age to be curious not only about their own bodies but about other people’s bodies as well – both male and female.  Looking at another child’s naked body is a way to gather information.  Young children explore their sexuality by looking and also by touching (as when they play “Doctor”).  Healthy exploration between young children is usually spontaneous and playful, and your description of the kids giggling and jumping on the bed with no clothes on fits this description. 

Mutual Sexual Play

When sexual behaviors take place between same aged children who normally play together (as these two children do), it usually means that the play is mutual and voluntary – another sign of normal developmental behavior. Has this behavior occurred before with other playmates? Have you observed other behaviors in your son or his friend that worry you? If the answers to these questions are "no", it doesn’t look like there’s anything to be worried about here.

Healthy Sexual Development

This may be a good time to learn about children’s sexual development so that you’ll feel more comfortable and knowlegable in telling the difference between age-appropriate behaviors and behaviors that could be concerning. This may also be a good opportunity to begin some healthy sex education geared to your child’s age level, if you haven’t already done so. At this age you can start with simple things like teaching children proper names of body parts.  Take a look at Talking to Children and Teens  for some guidance about age-appropriate ways of talking to children about healthy sexuality and body safety.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 1st, 2012