Home Book Collections Where Babies Come From – Inclusive Kids Books About Sex & Reproduction

Where Babies Come From – Inclusive Kids Books About Sex & Reproduction

via Ashia

[Image description: Illustration from What Makes A Baby, by Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smyth. A developing fetus at 7, 12, and 38 weeks gestation.]


Not sure how to explain where babies come from? If you’re looking for inclusive, age-appropriate books to talk about reproduction that include all family constellations, these are the ones you’re searching for.



Where Babies Come From

Open, honest discussions start early

 

Oh, hello there, Squeamish Parent!

If you are choosing to wait until your kids hit puberty to discuss sex with your kids, that’s cool.

For our family, it’s easier to discuss the internal mechanics right now. It was easier to answer my sons’ questions about lumpy, oddly-behaving body parts and calm fears about ‘getting accidentally pregnant.’

When our eldest was around 20 months old, we stated preparing him for the birth of his little brother. We watched youtube home-births, looked at images of fetuses as his brother grew, talked what it was like when he was in my tummy (and the years of medical intervention it took to get him there).

We discussed how some kids live in tummies of surrogates, first parents, trans dads, and the how all families are real families.

At one-and-a-half, he was old enough to understand human reproduction, without any of the awkwardness that comes from discussing sex with an older child.

I was surprised how easy it is to talk about sex, when we start from a framework of healthy human biology. But it was still hard to find books on this topic for kids this young. (Which is ridiculous – why wait until our kids have started having unsafe sex or being molested to finally teach them about it!?)

Most books were too complex, skirted around sex unnecessarily, and created the illusion that our cishet, two-parent family was the only way families were built. I want my kids to understand that there are many different types of family constellations.

The ways we build our families are diverse, unique, and can be a bittersweet mix of trial and hope that passes beyond biology.

Be open, honest, and direct from the very beginning

We teach the Earthquakes to challenge us if we try to use our parental authority as a shortcut – to never accept ‘Because I said so‘ as a final answer. We answer with unvarnished truth when they ask us hard questions about death, injustice, and sex, even when they’re little – so they can trust me in ten years, when our relationship gets shakier.

Pick the right book for your level of squeamishness below. No judgement – everyone takes on what we can handle, and sometimes our own history with sex can make this a really scary conversation. If you’re not ready for these books yet, check out our basic books on anatomy and body awareness, then come back here.

 


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Being Born

The Little Earthquakes’ Top Pick (with reservations.) Ages 1+

While pregnant with R2, Q and I used to pore over the images of Being Born in concert with R2’s development. Being able to ‘see’  his brother’s development beyond grainy ultrasound images (which meant nothing to him) allowed Q to start bonding with R2 and gave him extra time to identify us parents as a shared resource.

This is our favorite because it features the most realistic images (photographs) and straightforward language to give kids a sense of what a developing embryo and fetus looks like. Both my kids LOVE it and ask for it regularly.

But it’s not representative of all family constellations, presuming the reader is the biological, naturally conceived child of a cishet couple. You can skip over the text and just follow the amazing images, but be prepared to clarify this isn’t the way all babies are made.

Specifically, it was just this one  line: “Your father’s penis became hard so that it could slip into your mother’s vagina, a soft opening between her legs.” That was hard to read the first time aloud, but my kids didn’t even blink. (Although it wasn’t true for our test-tube baby.) It sure is a great way to quickly rip off the band aid and explain how some families get the sperm to the egg.

For a much lengthier book with way more images for older kids, check out A Child Is Born, by the same photographer. I always get the two mixed up because of the similar names, but Being Born is the one you want for very young kids.


Ages 1-4

What Makes A Baby

Most inclusive for adoptive, LGBTQ, intersex, surgical birth families and squeamish parents

If you’re into the phrase “The Egg tell the sperm all the stories it has to tell about the body it came from. And the sperm tells the egg all the stories it has to tell about the body it came from.”…then this book might be for you.
What Makes A Baby uses a trippy combination of metaphor and story that doesn’t quite work for our literal family. I like accurate illustrations and photographs for science-based books, over a surreal egg illustration full of puppet theaters and trees.
What I do like about the book is that the author took care to be trans, nonbinary & intersex inclusive, and it works for adoptive families. Success on that is subjective, as some trans folks find it ‘sanitized’ (which is true) and others laud it for leaving out the ‘mommy & daddy’ terminology that excludes so many LGBTQ+ families (which is nonsense).
It was also nice to have a book that we didn’t have to include caveats for – since we used fertility treatments to conceive Q, he was born via cesarean, and we had to rely on donor milk. It showed him he’s not alone or particularly weird in this experience, and he was excited to see his journey reflected and validated.

Ages 3+

Where Willy Went

For SUPER squeamish, poetic parents

For those of you EVEN MORE squeamish and poetic, you might like Where Willy Went – taking even more leaps into metaphor with cute illustrations of goggle-clad sperm and testicle classrooms. Illustrations of the female reproductive system were simplistic to the point of actively confusing my kids.
Also fair warning – ‘Willy’ the sperm is bad at math, and the girl he eventually becomes also turns out bad at math. I think we have enough girls-can’t-do-math stereotypes out there already, thank you very much. So maybe leave that part out.

Maybe Don’t.

It’s Not The Stork

Not recommended (until they update it to remove trans misgendering)

I’m adding this to the list even though I don’t recommend it – because I know you’re going to check it out anyway because this series is the classic go-to for sex education and it looks so inclusive.

If you must – I’d skim through it with kids over 3. It’s a painful read aloud – wordy and overly detailed (not educational detail, just jokes and fluff and filler). It’s didactic, all over the place, and looong, but the Earthquakes did enjoy it.

I wouldn’t just hand it to a kid or teen and let them read it on their own. Harris tries to be inclusive for lesbian, gay, adoptive, and multiracial family constellations, but it sure doesn’t seem like she ran this by trans & nonbinary folks. She tends to misgender trans folks and talks about them like an aberration – and completely leaves out people who don’t fall within a gender binary.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if this series wasn’t heralded as the gold standard. We need higher standards.


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2 observations

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Rebecca June 14, 2019 - 7:29 AM

I totally agree about Harris! We have all three books, and started the first one when my kid was 4, and the second one at 6/7. Do you know whether the author has plans to update? I clicked on your post eagerly, and really wish there was more for the preteen crowd that is scientific but accessible.

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Ashia June 14, 2019 - 11:39 AM

I certainly hope they plan updates – it’s a popular book so I’m sure they’ll come out with a new edition. Whether or not they update it to be more inclusive – no idea! But it certainly doesn’t hurt for readers to email the publisher and author with a little nudge 😉

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