A Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Teachers by author Deborah Roffman
Want some ideas for making the most out of reading The Science of Babies with your child? Here are some page-by-page pointers offered by author Deborah Roffman to prepare you for the reading of her board book!
Teachers will also find these suggestions useful. As you read and reread The Science of Babies over time with your child, you can add or explain or look up new and different information at each reading. That way you'll keep reminding them that YOU are their "Go-To" source for learning about these topics, long before other sources want to draw their attention.
Everyone's Body Is Different
Guide your child to point to ways the bodies are similar and different--most have the same kinds of parts but different heights, shapes, hairstyles, faces, etc.
Outside Body Parts
Read and ask your child to repeat the words on each page. Ask your child to point to and name other parts they see. Explain why some people might need a prosthesis.
Inside Body Parts
Explain that many parts that help our bodies work are on the inside where they are kept safe and protected. Name and talk about other "inside parts" that people have but can't see.
Parts We Keep Private
Talk about some places in people's lives that are private--where only certain people can go--and places that are "public," where most or all people can go, and why privacy is important in some situations. Younger children will have a harder time grasping this concept.
What are genitals?
Point to and read the names of each part, emphasizing whether they are inside or outside parts. Notice with the child that there are two of some parts, but only one of other parts. If it would be helpful, use these diagrams as references you can come back to again and again as you read other pages in the book. Be sure to ask if the child has questions! Note that younger children may simply enjoy looking at the colorful images and hearing some of the interesting-sounding words--that's perfect for their age.
Egg Cells and Sperm Cells
Explain that a sperm cell is the tiniest cell in the whole human body, while an egg cell is the largest! Isn't that amazing!! An egg cell is about the size of a period at the end of a sentence so you can just barely see it. Tell the child how they started out as one tiny cell, and--wow!--see how much they've grown since then. They have way, way, way more cells now than they could ever count!
From One Body to Another
Take a deep breath. These concepts are often the trickiest for adults to talk about. Remember, again, that a child's questions are about science, not sex! And, yes, it's OK to mention pleasure! Even very young children discover that the genitals can create pleasurable feelings when they are touched...it's not a secret! You might also say that nature relies on people to make babies so it made this behavior pleasurable to encourage them. Also, telling children that grownups bring their bodies close together in this way just because they enjoy it, not only to make babies, will prevent them from assuming that sexual intimacy is only for baby-making--an idea they'll have to unlearn later on.
Sperm and Egg Join
Elaborate on other ways to help the sperm and egg come together, especially if that's how your child was conceived. Sperm can come out of the penis and be put together with an egg that a doctor removes from an ovary in a special dish they keep in their office. After the cells make about one hundred new cells, the doctor can put "the ball of cells" into a uterus where they can grow and grow for about nine months. Another way is for the doctor or another person to take sperm--which comes out of the penis inside fluid called semen--and place it inside a vagina. The sperm can then swim up toward the egg tubes where one sperm might join with an egg. If it pertains to a family event that the child knows about, you might wish to explain that some fetuses come out a long time before they are able to live outside of a uterus. The pregnancy ends and people are usually sad for a while afterwards.
Describe a microscope--or find a picture of one--and notice together how they make very tiny objects appear much, much larger than they really are. Having a children's book about cells handy is also very helpful.
Inside the Uterus
Point out again that most fetuses grow inside the uterus for about nine months before they come out, while some may come out earlier or later than that. Babies that come out very early may need special help. Tell a personal story if you wish. If it pertains to a family event that the child knows about, you might wish to explain that some fetuses come out a very long time before they are able to live outside of a uterus. The pregnancy ends and people are usually sad for a while afterwards.
Make the point that pregnancy can be very fun for the whole family, and also that some people may need a lot of extra rest and care when they are pregnant. Tell a personal story if you wish.
Time to come out!
In many places, most babies are born in the hospital. Some families want to give birth at home, so the whole family can be present for all or parts of it. Some babies are born in a special building called a birthing center where the whole family can get special attention.
Birthing a baby is called being "in labor," because the body is doing hard work! It needs to push the fetus out of the uterus and then into the vagina and then out of an opening at the end of the vagina that's in between the person's legs. When the baby comes out it's called "delivery."
This baby is being delivered! It's a very special time!! If they are not able to come out through the vagina, babies can be delivered in another way with a doctor's help. The doctor can create an opening in the top of the uterus and take the baby out with their hands. The doctor will then close up the opening. People whose babies are delivered this way will need more time to rest after the birth.
Some people deliver their babies while lying down with their legs apart. Others squat down close to the ground. Or, they might use a special chair called a "birthing chair." There are other positions too! And once in a while babies are born in a car because they're ready to come out on the way to the hospital!!
Why do babies cry?
Wonder out loud with the child about how even newborns have ways to communicate their needs and desires! How do older children communicate their needs and desires? What are the best ways to let another person know that you need or want help with something?
Help the child identify different families they know and who is in each, and also what they love most about their own family. Talk about why families are so important, and what family members need from each other. Ask what each family member--even young children--can do to help other family members.
The Science of Babies is the first board book that will help all parents start talking to their kids early about bodies, birth, and families in an inclusive and scientific way.
Written by acclaimed human sexuality educator and author Deborah Roffman, MS, The Science of Babies is truly revolutionary in its approach.