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Learning rules, playing and initiating friendships

Children have more contact with large groups of people (at kindergarten and school). They increasingly learn how they “should” behave (social rules).

They learn that adults disapprove if they expose themselves in public and touch themselves or someone else. This makes them less likely to walk around in the nude in public and touch their genitals.

Exploring their own and other people’s bodies is expressed more in the context of playing (“sexual games”): children play “mummies and daddies” and also “doctors and nurses”, at first openly but later often in secret, because they learn that being naked in public is not allowed.

Dirty words phase: children are discovering their boundaries. They notice that saying certain words provokes a reaction in people around them. This is exciting and fun, so they repeat those same words.

At this age children are very interested in reproduction and ask endless questions, such as “where do children come from?”

Most children start experiencing shyness in regard to their bodies and start do draw boundaries.

Children know that they are boys or girls and always will be.

They develop clear-cut ideas about “what a boy does” and “what a girl does” (gender roles).

Children make friends with other children: of both sexes or sometimes just with other boys or girls (members of their own sex).

Children of this age often associate friendship and liking someone with being in love. For instance, they often say that they are in love with their mother, teacher or rabbit. This usually has nothing to do with feelings of sexuality and desire. It is simply their way of saying that they are fond of someone.