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Child Sexual Development (How kids develop sexually)

Sexual development sounds like something that shouldn't happen until puberty, but it actually starts from the very beginning.

Remember when you had your first child and every couple of months (or weeks), you took them to an appointment with a Child Health Nurse or a Paediatrician for a check up? Well, just like your child was supposed to meet certain development milestones that were physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language; your child also develops sexually.

Which means that just like learning to walk, young children will reach important milestones in regards to their bodies, what it means to be a boy or a girl, how people relate to each other and what behaviours are appropriate in different situations.

As kids get older, how they behave and express these feelings changes, and they move through different (and very normal) phases of sexual development.

By knowing what's 'normal', you can be ready for what to expect, even though it might seem a little uncomfortable at times! Also, by knowing what's normal (or healthy) sexual behaviour, it is easier to then spot the warning signs that something might not be quite right.

You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.

If you’re ever unsure about your child's sexual development and/or behaviour, the Traffic Lights App by True Relationships & Reproductive Health is a fantastic tool that you can use to work out whether you should worry or not.

You can find more information about the milestones of physical, emotional, cognitive, social and sexual development of children from birth to 18 years old here.

My sex education resources page has a section which includes all my favourite parent resources on child sexual development.

How to respond to your child's sexual development

Below you will find a series of sexual development blogposts that will help you in knowing how to respond to the the 'things' that kids sometimes do or ask you about!

This list is growing! I have a lot of articles planned on child sexual behaviour, mainly because my youngest child is nearly 9 and I need to get these articles written before I forget what it is like to live with kid's  who sometimes 'push my buttons' with their sexual behaviour!

So do let me know if there is a behaviour that you would me to write about. To get in touch, please email me directly at cath (at) sexedrescue (dot) com or here


  • Children’s Sexual Development and Behaviour – Pants Aren’t Rude by Pam Linke 2015.
  • From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children by Debra Hafner 2000.
  • Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexuality; Developmental and Forensic Psychology edited by Bromberg & O’Donohue 2013.
  • Understanding Your Child’s Sexual behaviour: What’s Natural and Healthy by Toni Cavanagh Johnson 1999.
  • Where Do I Start? Supporting Healthy Sexual Development in Early Childhood by Family Planning QLD 2009.

About the Author Cath Hakanson

I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and to empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. You can join my online parent support group here and visit my shop for helpful resources.

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