Inside: As a parent, knowing what the stages of puberty in girls are, means that you can prepare and support your child as they do through this important stage of life.
As a parent with a daughter who is on the cusp of puberty, awareness of the stages of puberty in females is a handy thing to know.
Because by knowing what the stages of puberty in girls are (or children with a female body), you can at least be prepared for what changes will be happening to them. And prepare your child by talking about them before they even happen.
Especially when it comes to things like periods!
When we look at breaking puberty up into stages of development, we are often talking about the Tanner Scale. A British paediatric endocrinologist, James Tanner, developed the Tanner Scale in the mid-1900’s to measure the stages of sexual development during puberty.
The Tanner Scale is still used today. Although puberty starts earlier in females today, the sequence of changes that happen in female bodies is unchanged.
And don’t forget that the timing of when these changes will happen to your child vary. Some kids can be earlier or later than others.
So what are the stages of puberty in girls? Or kids with a female body?
PS I have tried to keep this post jargon-free but I have used the correct names for the private parts of the body ie the genitals. This article talks about the importance of using the correct terms when talking to kids about their private parts of their body.
You’ll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.
(approximately between the ages of 8 and 11)
So what can you expect with the first of the stages of puberty in females?
The first changes that will happen to your child are hidden as they are happening deep inside their body.
The body will start to release hormones that will trigger the changes to start happening. The main hormone for females is estrogen. It will begin to surge in your child’s body, making their ovaries grow much larger, but no changes can yet be seen outside their body.
You may notice a slight growth spurt where their hips and thighs begin to grow wider and slightly more rounded.
(approximately between 8 and 14)
So what can you expect with the second of the stages of puberty in females?
Every child is different, but the first visible sign of puberty that you will most likely see in your child is the development of breasts and then pubic hair. A small number of kids can be different and will develop pubic hair before breasts. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about.
Breast buds will develop and your child may feel a small lump behind their nipple. The nipples will be tender and elevated, and the area around the nipple, the areola, will increase in size.
Pubic hair may appear as a small amount of thin soft hair on the skin around the external genitals, on the mons pubis and the labia majora.
You may notice a growth spurt where they are a lot taller and are beginning to gain weight, with the body getting rounder and curvier. Their hands and feet will usually grow bigger as well.
As their sweat glands start to increase their production of sweat, your child will now begin to produce body odour ie smell.
(approximately between 9 and 15)
So what can you expect with the third of the stages of puberty in females?
Your child’s breasts will continue to grow, increasing in size and being more cone-shaped and pointy. Their nipple and areola will now be more obvious, becoming larger and darker. Their pubic hair will begin to grow coarser and darker, but there still isn’t a lot of it. They may also start to grow more hair on their lower legs.
On the outside of their body, their genitals will also begin to change and your child may notice vaginal discharge for the first time. Some kids may have their first menstrual period, but it is usually light and not very regular.
Their body will still be growing and gaining weight and height.
(approximately from 10 to 16)
So what can you expect with the fourth of the stages of puberty in females?
Your child’s breasts will continue to grow now with a fuller, more rounded adult shape. Their nipple and areola will become more obvious, becoming larger, darker and pointier. Their pubic hair will grow thick, curly and become coarser, taking on a more adult triangular pattern of growth. Underarm hair may now start to appear (some kids may already have underarm hair).
If they haven’t already started, then the first menstrual period should now start. Their period is likely to be irregular at first. Their vaginal discharge will usually become more frequent and in heavier amounts in the last few months leading up to their first period.
Their skin and hair may become oily.
Your child will continue to grow, and their hips will become rounder, but not at the same rate as before.
(approximately between 12 and 19)
So what can you expect with the fifth and last of the stages of puberty in females?
This is the last stage of changes.
Your child will now reach their full height and will look like a young adult.
They will now be ovulating, which means their menstrual period will be regular. Their breasts will be fully grown and pubic hair will have an adult triangular pattern of growth. Their skin will be less oily, which usually means fewer pimples, except for the occasional one.
Resources to help with talking about puberty
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you’ll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about puberty.
My Puberty 101 page includes all of the information on puberty. You’ll find lots of different blog posts to help with talking to your child about growing up.
You’ll find videos about puberty in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about puberty yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of children’s books on puberty, for kids of all ages.
If you get stuck and feel that you need some extra support with talking to your child about puberty, then my book, The Parents’ Guide to Puberty, may be helpful. It’s a straightforward common sense guide that will help you to start having honest conversations that will guide your child through puberty, and strengthen your relationship without feeling embarrassed, awkward or nervous.
Or maybe you’re looking for a video course to sit down and watch together with your child. My friend Rowena from Amazing Me has created a fantastic 2 part interactive course for parents/carers to attend together with their 9 to 12 year old. It’s fun, educational and age-appropriate! You can learn more about her puberty course here.
If you have a child who is expecting their first period, then you may want to consider period pants. Period pants are fantastic for kids who are worried that they won’t know that their period has started until it stains through their clothing for the world to see. My favourite brand for tweens and teens is ModiBodi, as they are good quality and quite absorbent.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you’re unsure about how to answer your child’s questions about sex, then I have the perfect book for you! The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid’s ask parents about sex. Which means you don’t need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.
- A Blessing Not a Curse: A Mother-Daughter Guide to the Transition from Child to Woman by Jane Bennett. 2002. Sally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd. Bowral.
- Adolescence and Puberty. Edited by John Bancroft and June Machover Reinisch. 1990. Oxford University Press. New York.
- Gender Differences at Puberty. Edited by Chris Haywood. 2003. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
- Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexuality: Developmental and Forensic Psychology. Edited by Daniel S. Bromberg and William T. O’Donohue. 2013. Elsevier. Academic Press. Oxford.
- Puberty: Physiology and Abnormalities by Philip Kumanov and Ashok Agarwal. 2016. Springer International Publishing. Switzerland.