Recognising the first signs of puberty in boys can be a bit trickier than it can be in girls. Especially if your son doesn’t walk around the house naked anymore. Girls usually have more obvious signs, like breasts, that can’t be hidden under clothing. Whereas the first signs of puberty in boys, are usually hidden, and under their clothing.
You can read about the signs of puberty in girls here.
So when should you expect to see the first signs of puberty in boys?
For boys, puberty usually starts around 2 years later than it does for girls. So for boys, puberty usually begins around the age of 10 to 12. It can be as early as 9 (yes, that early) or as late as 12-15. And the changes can take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to be finished. Every boy is different and puberty will begin when his body is ready for it. You can’t rush it!
The timing of puberty is influenced by many things – diet, body weight and their environment. The chances are, that if you were an early or late bloomer, that your son will be as well.
You’ll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.
So although the timing of puberty can be different for every boy, the sequence of changes are much more predictable. There is a usual pattern of changes that we can expect to see in boys.
We can expect emotional and physical changes that will prewarn us that puberty is on it’s way.
When we think of the emotional signs of puberty in boys, we tend to think of them only happening in girls. But they do happen in boys too, especially in the very beginning, before you start to see the physical changes.
So you may begin to see mood swings, as his body adapts to the surge of hormones that he is now experiencing. One moment he may be feeling happy and then very angry the next. Boys are as likely as girls, some say even more so, to becoming more upset or angry during the early stage of puberty. Some boys also act more impulsively during puberty.
Unlike girls, the physical signs of puberty in boys are much harder to spot as they are usually hidden under their clothing. And if your son is shy with being naked, then you will miss some of the early physical signs.
You’ll start to see physical changes anywhere between the ages of 11 to 13, depending on how observant you are or on how much nudity you see in your son. And remember every boy is different – some boys will be earlier or later than their friends. And some may have changes in a slightly different order!
Usually, before anything else, you’ll notice that they have gone up a shoe size or two. So you can expect their feet and hands to have a growth spurt, and for them to suddenly be a lot taller.
As their feet grow, you might begin to notice smelly feet for the first time (or their feet may be smellier than they normally are). Their body may even begin to smell or pong, especially after they have been outside running around for a while.
The next changes are not so obvious to spot, unless you know what you are looking for. Their testicles will grow slightly larger, and their scrotum will hang lower, become darker in colour, thinner and be less smooth.
They will begin to grow more hair on their legs and under their arms, in their armpits for the first time. Fine pubic hair begins to grow at the base of the penis and scrotum. These first hairs are usually long and slightly curly. For some boys though, hair growth may not begin until they are over 13.
The penis may have grown a little wider but now, as their testicles continue to grow and their pubic hair begins to become darker, thicker and curlier, their penis will start to change. Their penis will now begin to grow longer. Erections will also be a lot more common than ever before, often happening when they least expect it.
As their muscles begin to grow larger and their shoulders broader, some boys may get short-term swelling and tenderness around their nipples ie grow breasts. This usually happens around the age of 12 to 14, and any breast development will usually disappear within a year or two.
Boys will continue to grow taller and wider, with hair growth continuing on their legs and under their arms.
Sometime between the age of 13 to 16, boys will begin to produce sperm. They may begin to have their first wet dreams and ejaculate for the first time when masturbating. For the first time, their voice may also begin to break or crack as their vocal cords change and their voice deepens.
Between 14 to 18, boys will now start to grow facial hair and their skin may become oily with pimples. Chest hair may also begin to grow for some boys, the amount depending on how hairy the other males in their family are.
During all of this boys will continue to grow taller and wider as their muscles develop and grow.
There are many fantastic books that can help you to start having those first conversations with your son.
Hair in Funny Places is a great first book for talking about puberty. It is funny and an enjoyable story to read. It is one that you can start reading to your son (or daughter) from about the age of 5 or 6. This then helps to plant the seeds early about the fact that one day his body will begin to change, meaning that he won’t find it a big shock when puberty finally arrives.
When it comes to puberty books, there are 3 types.
The first type of books are the ones that are written for younger boys who are either curious or are starting to show early signs of puberty. These books just talk about puberty and avoid the topic of sex. You can find examples of these books here – just look out for the ones that say that sex isn’t included.
The second type of books are for boys who are a little bit older, and these books are beginning to talk about sex. You can find examples of these books here.
The third type of books are for older boys who are already showing signs of puberty, are teenagers and curious about sex. These books are almost sex manuals and they provide a lot of information about sex. You can find examples of these types of books here.
So, these are the signs of puberty in boys that you should be looking out for, and are the ones that signal that it is time to start talking. With boys it can sometimes be harder to spot these changes. especially if they don’t walk around the house naked! But once you begin to see these signs of puberty in boys, you’ll know that puberty is well and truly, on it’s way. And hopefully, you’ll start talking before too many more changes will have happened.
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.