Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.1 Program of Developmental Activities

2.1.3 Program Activities for Three- to Five-Year-Olds Body Mastery for Three- to Five-Year-Olds

The caregivers/teachers should offer children opportunities, indoors and outdoors, to learn about their bodies and how their bodies function in the context of socializing with others. Caregivers/teachers should support the children in their curiosity and body mastery, consistent with parental/guardian expectations and cultural preferences. Body mastery includes feeding oneself, learning how to use the toilet, running, skipping, climbing, balancing, playing with peers, displaying affection, and using and manipulating objects.
Achieving the pleasure and gratification of feeling physically competent on a voluntary basis is a basic component of developing self-esteem and the ability to socialize with adults and other children inside and outside the family (1-5).
Self-stimulatory behaviors, such as thumb sucking or masturbation, should be ignored. If the masturbation is excessive, interferes with other activities, or is noticed by other children, the caregiver/teacher should make a brief non-judgmental comment that touching of private body parts is normal, but is usually done in a private place (7,8). After making such a comment, the caregiver/teacher should offer friendly assistance in going on to other activities. These behaviors may be signs of stress in the child’s life, or simply a habit. If the child’s sexual play is more explicit or forceful toward other children or the child witnessed or was exposed to adult sexuality, the caregiver/teacher may need to consider that abuse is possible (6).
Center, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. Botkin, D., et al. 1991. Children’s affectionate behavior: Gender differences. Early Education Dev 2:270-86.
  2. Mayr, T., M. Ulich. 1999. Children’s well-being in day care centers: An exploratory empirical study. Int J Early Years Education 7:229-39.
  3. Cartwright, S. 1998. Group trips: An invitation to cooperative learning. Child Care Infor Exch 124:95-97.
  4. Rodd, J. 1996. Understanding young children’s behavior: A guide for early childhood professionals. New York: Teacher’s College Press.
  5. Cooney, M., L. Hutchinson, V. Costigan. 1996. From hitting to tattling to communication and negotiation: The young child’s stages of socialization. Early Child Education J 24:23-27.
  6. Kellogg, N., American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. 2005. Clinical report: The evaluation of sexual abuse in children. Pediatrics 116:506-12.
  7. Johnson, T. C. 2007. Understanding children’s sexual behaviors: What’s natural and healthy. San Diego: Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma.
  8. Friedrich, W. N., J. Fisher, D. Broughton, M. Houston, C. R. Shafran. 1998. Normative sexual behavior in children: A contemporary sample. Pediatrics 101: e9.