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Expanding Mia's Vocabulary

So I'm sure I am far from the first person on the internet to ask this question, but googling it and reading a bunch of responses from people I don't know does not sound nearly as much fun as asking and getting answers from you people who I do know and adore.

Mia and I have been taking showers together lately, because some days it is the only way to get it done. Mia is in a body part naming phase, so we spend a lot of time anyway pointing to our noses and eyes and knees and bottoms and toes. When we take a shower, her repertoire obviously expands a little bit, so in addition to mommy's legs and fingers and ears we have mommy's breasts and... that's where I get stuck.

Now, my mom taught me to say vagina, and I have no problem saying vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina, see? My problem is that it is not the correct term. To be anatomically correct, the word she is looking for is labia, which I also have no problem saying, but it just isn't a word you hear much in casual conversation. I want to give her to correct words, I want to be straight-forward, but I just don't know what word to tell her.

What did you teach your kids at this age? Would you do the same again? What words did your parents teach you?

Comments (70)

What did you teach your kids at this age? Vagina (and penis for boys)

Would you do the same again? Yes. Important thing to remember, I think, is that while you want to give correct information, you don't want to give too much information too soon. It will only confuse them.

What words did your parents teach you? Vagina and penis

My Mom taught me vulva and vagina seperately and still insists that those are correct, but for now I'm just saying vagina for The Squad. It simplifies it for now.

well, now, here's a story for ya. I have boys. I believed in teaching them the correct terms for everything, so they learned penis pretty early on. Of course, it was awhile before they had any reason to learn the female equivalant. Then #1 son expanded his body part obsession to the general public, pointing out eyes and noses and feet and yes, penises, on perfect strangers everywhere we went. Deliveryman come to our door? Let's point to his crotch and say "penis". Visit great-grandpa? Where's his penis? Let's point it out?

So my boys say "girl parts", just to avoid further embarassment on my part.

Yes, I'm a wimp.

I guess I've always been under the belief that if they can figure out how to ask what it is then they need to be told the correct terms. That said, I think vagina would suffice for the time being. It's correct enough and is better than her walking around calling it her who-ha, although that would be pretty damn funny.

for now I'd just say vagina. When you get to the stage in her life where if she points to your ear lobe you call it the ear lobe and not just the ear, then you can start doing the labia thing if you want. Assuming you're not already there :)

With the boys, it was always penis. No other words. It's different for me with the girl, though. I don't like the sound of labia or vagina coming out of a baby's mouth. So, it's cooch. Which has turne, of course, into singing "Who got the cooch, baby," every time we change a diaper. I'm a bad, evil mom.

My friend taught her daughters vagina. One day at the grocery, her oldest shouted to everyone within a two-aisle distance, "My mommy gots hair on her gina!" Over and over again.

Go with cooch. parents taught me NOTHING useful. I called the whole vaginal area my "Poopee" for YEARS. Some word I'm sure my parents made up when they were changing me and talking baby talk. Of course now, I wouldn't be caught dead referring to it as something that sounds like feces. I'll be interested to see all the responses you get. I hope to have children some day and this could help!

I am teaching my kids vagina and penis. They will talk about how big L's penis is and how when "R becomes a boy she will have a penis too".

Although i di dhave to stop showering with them because they were telling me how big my nipples were and stuff.
Like I need two more people grossed out by my bod.

The correct term for the external female genitalia, which does indeed include the labia, is vulva. We taught our little girl(she is 3.5 now) this since.... well, as long as we've discussed it, and so far, I haven't regretted it. She asks me when she puts her panties on which way does the vulva opposed to the bum side, kwim....perhaps she does the same thing at preschool--wouldn't embarass me if she said it in public, but might some people. :)

The word she's looking for is vulva, which is the word for all that outside-parts area. (The labia are just the shutters, as it were.)

At our house we go British and use "girl bits" and "boy bits" for everyday talking. It's evasive and we think it's probably wrong to do that, but it's cute and it's not embarrassing if they say it loudly in public. We do also tell them the real words periodically, so they don't get confused in high school health class.

Forgot to answer a question. My mom taught me "vagina" and "vulva," and so it sounds really, really weird to me when I hear women refer to all their parts together as "vagina." It's as if they were referring to their butt as "anus." Boy, you are going to get a LOT of Google hits to this comments section.

vagina. Just think about her repeating it to others. People are most comfortable with that term from a child, I think.

I didnt teach the correct names. GASP! Miss G calls hers a toot toot and all girls. She says baby has a weiner and daddy has a weiner. But she knows what it is and knows its all hers. When we change her diaper she says nobody can touch my toot toot but me and mommy and daddy when they change my diaper. Thats bad. So she totally knows thats hers only to touch. I think you can call it whatever you want as long as she knows what it is. As long as she can tell you if someone touched her and she knows and you know what that area is called. Sorry, I just couldnt say Penis and Vagina. I hate the sound of those words and have never used them myself. But we say boobies too.

I learned vagina and penis.
I have boys, they both learned the correct word very early on but as they got older we gave them other terms, we're pretty fond of "junk" (as in Please Stop Touching Your Junk In Public). We do a lot of talking on long car rides. As we started down the girl part conversation, both boys said they didn't want to know what the correct word was and covered their ears. Hubby and I told them that we didn't want to feed them either, we'd relent when they did. So, they know all the right words for serious conversations and doctors visits and such.

My best friend taught her daughter to call it a FooFoo... now, what do you think they sang the first day of preschool????

Oh, and I definitely think Vagina is enough for now. General names are ok. She'll learn more specific terms for exact parts as she gets older.

When she asks, I happily give various parts their correct names, but if we're just talking generalities (i.e. it's bathtime, and I need her to sit up so I can wash her) I guess I usually just say "front half" for everything from the vagina forward and "back half" for, well, the back half.

I think my mom might have given me the right words once, but we always referred to them as "girl parts" and "boy parts".

I went through the same thing, and I don't beleive there really is a satisfactory answer. I am also a big beleiver in the proper names for body parts, and my son Ethan (now 4) has always known the proper name for his penis. Since it usually comes up during potty training, vagina is not even the correct part of the anatomy to discuss for that! It's not where pee comes from, as it is for the penis. Since the vagina is a canal inside of you, I'm not even sure why it needs to come up at this age, except that I don't want them to NOT know it's there, or never hear the term.. ergh. So, like you, I thought, labia? Is that the term I should use? Maybe vulva is the better term?

So what did I end up going with? With all my, "proper name for proper parts"?

"Girl bits." I guess I just gave up or didn't want to confuse her with a lot of names. I do tell her now and then that she has a vagina, usually when she starts comparing herself with her brother's anatomy, never in the context of going potty. I have also on occasion used the word labia. I get frustrated mainly because for males, the penis is used reproductively as well as an exit for urine. That doesn't mean that vagina should be thrown around the same way. It's all about going potty for little kids, and the vagina has nothing to do with that. I don't want her to think she pees out of her vagina!

To make up for my wussiness, I also now use 'boy bits' and penis/scrotum pretty interchangably for the boy as well. He knows what it is, and now he's at the age where he can use some discretion.

Anyway, again, I don't think there's really any good answer. I guess if I had to pick all over, I would go with 'vulva' and get over my wussiness. Whatever you decide will be right for you guys, I'm sure. Other peoples choices were definitely not right for us (I could never use the term cooch, sorry commenter above!)Good luck :)

I would go with vulva, too. Or vagina, but again, the vulva is the outside general word. When I was a kid I was taught silly nicknames and it just further confused me. Doesn't it seem like nicknames just make those body parts something to be ashamed of or never to be talked about? Maybe it's just me, but that's the impression I got when I was little. ("This part has a nickname, so it's dirty and embarrassing to ask about it." Etc.) Women have enough body image issues, without having to worry about how their vulva, or how the word vulva, is something to be embarrassed about. And. I can't help but say...I don't understand why penis isn't an ugly word for a kid to say, but vagina is.

Sorry, sorry.

My mother was so horribly embarrassed to speak of sex or body parts that she only ever referred to general body areas such as "up there" and "down there". I grew up being very ashamed to use clinical terms, though I'm okay now. I only had sons and that made it pretty easy and straightforward.

I taught them penis & vagina.
And Chris taught them ALL sorts of hilarious words for penis, because he's 12.
Mind you Noah thought, up until about 6 months ago, that my breasts were actually ELBOWS.
Gravity sucks worse for some, apparently.

He also constantly asks me where my penis is, what the hell happened to it? Will I lose mine someday and grow elbows?

Umm ... we taught my daughter "Nani". We've had friends that do the whole correct medical term and that's fine. I dated a girl that called it her coochie, I've read women call it many different things, flower, va jay jay, and the rest of the litenany of names. I really don't think it will make a difference what you call it because the next door neighbor's kid will call it her haha or something else.

My daughter also had a serious urniary track obstruction that made it painful and difficult to urinate. So what do you tell her? You're going to the Urologist? No, we just said she would have to see the bottom doctor. Case closed.

Maybe we're making too big a deal out of being politically correct. Kids know what you're talking about.


Sorry forgot to mention my parents were depression babies so we didn't talk about things that were uncomfortable like sex or private body parts. I learned from the street what it was called and always though "Vagina" sounded weird. I kind of wonder, "What's the point?" Does it really matter. They won't be tested on it in kindergarten.


I am a big fat chicken - I always thought I'd teach the correct terms, but then I didn't and now it's really too late. Damn.

I hate saying "vagina" too, unless she's pointing to her birth canal. But "vulva" sounds gross.

So I just say "private parts" for both her dad and I, and when she's older i'll say "penis" and "vagina"

And if that doesn't work, I'll just call them "Coochie and Wang"

Sounds like a buddy cop show, no?

We call it vagina and penis. It's also what we have taught our kids to call them. Our youngest calls everything in that area her butt. I'm not sure why and we can't convince her that the front has a different name.

OMG! Just when I thought I was over the nervousness of being a first time parent. Now I have this to think about? I told my husband HE gets to talk to James about all that fun stuff (like sex) but I am sure it will be my job if I want it done properly. As for my folks...I don't remember what my mom taught me to call it.

I used to call it "popola", "Popa", "cuca", "cuquita" among many others but I am hispanic so they are all spanish (Dominican) slang for vagina. I do remember asking my mom why she had such huge boobies she answered because you ate so much when little. I went on to believe that women with small breast did not feed their children until of course I said that to my mom's friend and they both laughed and explained what really happens.

Anyway, Today is my birthday. I am 26 officially. A little scared since I am moving from NEw York to Florida in about 2 months for a new job and a different life. Happy birthday to me!

After initially using the French slang for the privates (my kids are growing up in France, so they know about nénettes and zizis), I got over my embarrassment and started using vagina and penis with them. Yeah, I know it should be vulva.

And now to bring it back to me, my mom taught me vagina, but I always called it my "virginia." Hehe. Now I know why she laughed every time I said it.

My mom taught her children (2 girls, 1 boy) that we all had a pee-pee, butt and chest. We were never confused when other people refered to these parts using other words. We were never scarred from not knowing the real turms for these areas until we got to school and learned it there. By the that time, we were way past the age of embaressing our mother in public shouting some of the things your other readers have mentioned.

For our 15 month old, the husband refers to her parts as girly parts and breasts while I still use my mothers mother's terms.

Our daughter hasn't started pointing out those regions yet, but she's facinated with my nipples in the shower. I'm sure my time to teach this "sensitive" area will be soon.

we are big fans of va-jay-jay around our parts.

I think the only way people become less uncomfortable is for the terms to gain usage.

My mom probably would have never said "vagina" when she was a kid. She risked embarrassment to teach me the proper name and now, about half (judging by the comments) of people are fine with vagina.

So feel free to go with vuvla knowing that Mia will probably be in the half by the time she's older who wont really understand why people are embarrassed/grossed out about it.

Then again, I also agree with the commenter who said "vagina" is fine for overall name like "ear" until differentiation comes in with "lobe", "vulva" and "labia"

We used Vagina with our daughter and would do the same again.

I find nothing more stupid that, "hoo-haa", "special place", or other such clap-trap.

While we know the scientifically correct term is vulva, we went the more colloquial route with vagina for our daughter (20 months now), and are fine with it.

My parents taught me penis and vagina.

"Vagina" as a general term always bugged me, too. We haven't quite gotten to that point yet, but I'm not sure what I'm going to say. I agree that they should learn the correct terms but Sophie is also a little parrot. Maybe "hoo-hoo dilly"? ;) I remember knowing "penis" but can't remember what I called my own parts at the time.

My mother told me nothing so you could imagine my horror when I suddenly discovered at school that I was bleeding to death.

Different generation of course. I vowed that I would repeat that particular mistake and I haven't. The kids ask, I answer. They know all the anatomically correct words but I don't turn it into an issue by insisting they always use them.

And since my girls are older than most of of your commenters' kids, we've had many far ranging (one could almost say bizarre) discussions about sexuality.

No problem but sometimes their timing leaves a little to be desired. Five o'clock traffic is not the time to suddenly ask about homosexuality or "what is a condom?"

Neither, for that matter, is the checkout line at the supermarket. See what you have to look forward to?

don't remember what my parents taught me ...? (perhaps I've blanked it out to protect myself?)

We call their -ahem- front parts, 'pee-ers'. (because as far as we're concerned, that's what they're for. At least until the children reach about 40.) Bums are bums. (obviously)

The girl is 3.5 and the boy is 1.5. The boy says, "bye-bye pee-er" when we put on his diaper and the girl couldn't care less about her parts.

I caved and we refer to Lauren's peepee. That's what my mom taught me and it seems to work. Like you, I get growly over the use of 'vagina' for the 'vulva' area. But yet, I'm not sure I want my 3yo spouting off about her vulva. Also, when we shower together, she takes note of my boobies, and I'm okay with that. I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid my mother referred to mine as 'dots' and well, that's just not right.

When she watches me change Jamie's diaper, we note that Jamie has a different kind of peepee because he's a boy.

Why is it that 'penis' doesn't seem weird for kids to say, but 'vulva' does?

Maybe it's just me.

I have to say here - I am glad I have a boy. Fewer decisions in that regard.

My aunt - an OBGYN has 3 kids. When her oldest (girl) was about 3 she was wearing one of those flotation life vests that buckle between the legs for little kids. She was fidgeting with it and uncomfortable. When I asked her - what's the matter honey? She said, "this is hurting my LABIA!!" Although all of us were a bit shocked - we had no question what she was feeling.

I asked my aunt - whats up with the labia thing???!!! She said, "I'm a Dr, not just a Dr. I'm an OB, I can't have my kids going around calling them pee-pees now can I?"

She's probably right - and really, I don't think it matters much - I'm not a mother (yet) so I'm not gonna go spouting advice on this one.

My mom did not teach me this, I came up with it on my own, but I always said that boys had FLOWERS. Girls had flowers as well, but they were on the INSIDE.

I wouldn't recommend this naming convention, although it is pretty cute.

when my son was 2, we told him "penis" for the whole frontal area, but waited until age 4 to break it down into penis, testicles, scrotum.

he was SO surprised to find a testicle in there...

Oh my God! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. These stories are great.

Okay, so I know Mia's only 1.5 but I have the BEST book for when she's 10 or 11. Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler. And I'm giving a copy (or two!) away at my place next Friday (like in 8 days). Come over and enter and if you don't win, you should for sure buy it for her anyway when the time comes (or now, so you have lots of prep time to read it yourself).


My parents taught me the right words, but that they weren't okay to use in polite conversation. My grandparents, on the other hand, used cringe-worthy slang that I will not EVEN repeat here.

My mom always said crotch. That word sounds so raunchy now, doesn't it?

My friend's little sister always called it her "front butt". It was too cute!

I don't have kids, so I suppose I can't give advice, but I do have some good stories/insight.

First of all I'm absolutely traumatized that I was taught "cookie!" What kind of effed up parent does that? One would think that I'd be scarred for life of eating cookies, but well, I like to eat and cookies are a food group. Once I realized that couldn't be the correct name I just called it my girly stuff on my own. I had friends that called it kitty or cat (WTF?) and a friend who called it monkey and now cannot look at monkeys at all!

Anyway, I learned the word vagina around kingergarten or first grade but thought it was FAGINA until um, probably 4th or 5th (sad, I know!)I still refer to the whole general area as vagina even though I know it is the vulva. Again, not fair that penis doesn't sound bad but vagina and vulva are horrible. I always called the male anatomy "wee wee" or "birdie" (again, WTF?) and learned about penis when I watched Kingergarten Cop in about the 3rd grade (horrible I tell you! my parents were horrible!) When I was 12 and my parents had my brother his penis was called "willy." I wonder if he ever feels weird about watching "Free Willy?!"

Lastly, as a nanny for 5 years, the little boys were always taught penis. However the mother's hate using the word vagina but do it anyway. The boys are obsessed with their penis and often wiggle it around commenting on how big it is. One child likes to um, play with his penis and refers to it as "playing guitar!" HA! Yes, men start when they are 3 and never stop.

Ok, I've exhibited my screwy childhood enough and will shut up now.

My kids are 2.5 years old. We use girl parts and boy parts. When they're old enough to realize that you can't ask strangers if you can see their genitals, we'll explain each part in more detail. Otherwise, my daughter who yelled, "That man has boy parts!" at the store would have been yelling something totally different.

If I remember correctly, we had "pee bum" and "poo bum" when were were *really* little. Mum's a nurse, though, so we did learn the correct terms when she felt we were ready. I don't think I ever felt really confused, or that things were over-generalized.

I call them her girl-bits.


Oh! My own funny story about this. My mother never taught me the word vagina; my stepmom did. I was around 8 years old.

After school one day a mean boy said "I'm going to kick your butt" to me. I turned to him and said "It's not called a butt, its called a vagina!"


And penis for the boy parts.

And tushy for the bottom.

We use penis.

Ahhh, the benefits of having all boys. And girls? Girls don't have penises, they have 'girl parts'. No idea what to tell you.

Dude. What's best is whatever you're comfortable. If you make a squeamish face every time you say, 'vagina', then I'd have to say teach her the name, but call it something else. My kids are 18 & 12. We called their privates their "popo", because my husband's from the south and it's just not genteel to use the words penis and vagina in everyday conversation. But the did know what the correct terminology was.

Now we say "hoo-ha" (mostly because it's so fun to say!) & "penis" and everyone is happy and well-adjusted. In the end, it REALLY doesn't matter.

I really don't have any advice, and I guess I'll be crossing this same bridge soon enough, but I think I'll probably just go with vagina. I know I called it my "front-butt" when I was little. I have no idea if I made it up or if my mom told me to call it that.

Wow, what do I have to look forward to if I ever become a mom. This discussion really never crossed my mind until now. See, the InternetS IS educational!

Please God don't call it her "monkey". That's what my mother called mine when I was little. And nipples were "copper pennies". Next on Oprah . . . ;)

i always went for age-appropriate truth/facts. vagina is all she really needs to know right now. specifics can be dealt with later on. that's the way i look at it.

Do what I do...just run away and avoid it.

As if you need another comment (you have 57 at last count) but hey, you asked! LOL.

At HER AGE RIGHT NOW it would be best to say "yep, that's my privates" or "pee pee" and "butt" or "bum".

By the time she is 4 vagina might do but kids truly do NOT WANT nor need 'more' information at that age. Really.

I don't really think there's any shame implicated by giving names other than "penis" "vagina" "vulva" etc. anymore than renaming the umbilicus the "bellybutton" or the abdomen the "tummy". I mean, your tummy isn't actually your entire abdomen but nobody is getting all politically correct over that, why be that way over the girly and boy parts? I don't think we hear of many 18 year old boys that haven't figured out that their "wee wee" is also their penis.

I think my parents taught me vagina...though I don't really remember. I know that "private parts" weren't really talked about in my house (butt was frowned upon like whoa). But I just wanted to say that you rock for knowing that vagina isn't exactly the proper terminology. Vulva is also another awesome word.

And in case I haven't said it enough lately or at all, you're my hero...I totally look up to you, Beth.

My Mom shoved a book under my door that had line drawings. Under the line drawing, the term, such as vulva. And then: the asterisk! Followed by a footnote: "You may also hear this sometimes called 'snatch' or 'twat' or 'box.'" They didn't have the nerve to go as the C word. It was quite a handy book.

We're teaching Dean "penis". But I am so glad I have a boy....why is penis easier to say than vagina? What's up with that?
I'm not sure my parents taught me anything....well, at least not in this arena. I seem to recall coming home from school and finding some sex book on my bed. I think it was called "Where Did I Come From". Although my mom swears to this day that is not what happened....

I can't remember what my mom thought me. I think vagina (it's spelled the same here). I called it my Mimi. And I find it absolutely hilarious that that's Mariah Carey's nickname.

We used the word "tushy" in my family for the female genitalia. Yes, that's right. Imagine my horror when I heard tushy being used by a teacher, as in "get your tushy in that seat right now." I nearly fainted. I had no idea that the nation at large used tushy for the butt.

Good grief.

I taught my now 6 year old Vagina and Penis. At 1st she would say the word at random or in the store where everyone could hear her...My favorite is how she yelled that her vagina had to go pee pee. Now that she is 6 she uses the trm more privatley and I don;t regret at all. She has been taught that there is no shame in saying the word just to use it privatly and not yell it through the stores.
I will also teach my 1 yr old the same words. Good Luck.

What a topic ! I don't have kids but can still form an opinion. Before I read the comments I was all for the proper names. But then I read the one about the grocery store. Yikes ! Someone made the point that she needs to know what is hers to touch and hers only and then be able to explain it if necessary. Whatever you decide will be fine.

I taught the Girl vagina and penis. And yes, I know that vagina isn't all incompassing but it's a lot easier than using several words.

We grew up saying vulva and penis. And I hope to pass on these words to MrMan.

Dude, my Mom always called it a "toto" (who knows why?!). I will forever be tortured by Dorothy's little dog in "Wizard of Oz".

Here's to using the CORRECT names.

My son calls his penis a rooster. I can thank his step mother for that one. He was with his dad when he asked that question first, so that's the answer that he recieved. I have a 16 month old daughter, and I am facing the same problem. She hasn't asked the question yet, but I like to be prepared.
She is completely fascinated by stuffing things down my shirt into my bra. My hubby thinks that it's hilarious, until she does it while we are in Wal-Mart....walking down the tool aisle full of men.

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