How tickling can teach your toddlers about sexual consent.

It’s International Day of the Girl.


Wait. What does that mean?

Well, it’s something the UN started five years ago:

The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

(Admittedly I hadn’t heard of it until I started seeing it everywhere online this morning.)

So there’s a lot of stuff going through my head right now about the needs and challenges our girls face.

Stuff that makes me really angry. See here if you want to get angry too.

But if you’d rather DO something, join with me in focusing on the “promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights” part.

How can we all do a bit more of that?

So, I had Woman’s Hour on low in the background as I was working this morning. And was hearing (but not listening to), two experts talking with Jane Garvey about young people and sexual consent.

As mother of young children (5 and 4) I was only really half-listening to the conversation, my mother instinct banking up knowledge for me to use in the (distant) future.

Then Garvey asked:

“At what age can you start talking about consent?”

“From toddlers”, replied Rachel Fitzsimmons, a sex education expert who teaches consent workshops in schools.

My ears pricked up immediately.

This was relevant for my children. NOW.

Fitzsimmons and Deana Puccio (former New York district attorney turned sex and relationship specialist) then rattled off some simple, powerful ways we can teach our young people – girls AND boys – about sexual consent.

To me it’s a win-win.

Here is a way to empower our girls to take control of their bodies while promoting sexual equality and respect among our boys.

So I played the conversation back and jotted down their ideas to share:

Very young children

  1. You can talk about consent from a very early age without talking about sex.

  2. Give children control of their own bodies. Encourage them to wash themselves, make choices over what they are going to wear, how they want to style their hair, where reasonable.
  1. Name body parts. Talk freely about bodies with your children. Don’t make bodies a taboo subject.
  1. Use games like tickling to teach consent. Play so that the words ‘stop’ and ‘no’ are respected straight away. Boys and girls will learn that they have the power to stop the tickling with these words. They’ll also learn to respect them coming from others.
  1. Give children a choice over how they greet relatives and friends of the family. Don’t force them to hug or kiss if they don’t want to.


  1. Don’t leave it too late to talk to your children about sex. You’re not going to sexualise your children by talking about sex early,” says Fitzsimmons, who sees many children starting secondary school without enough knowledge in this area.
  1. Make the conversation a continuous one. Don’t just dump a scripted birds-and-bees lecture on them once. Talk openly about relationships, love, sex and consent when appropriate.
  1. Make the conversation open, early, honest and age-appropriate


  1. Our young people are exposed to early sexualisation and pornography. They have to deal with social media bullying and sexting. Don’t blame children for any of this. They didn’t invent any of it and are given these tools at an early age and told to self-regulate. Work with them to find ways they can work through their problems.

I hope you found something in that list that made you think: WOW, YES! I can do that right now!

Imagine a world in which women’s bodies were always safe.

Imagine a world in which there were no predatory men.

Surely we’ve all got a huge part to play in that?

Happy International Day of the Girl x


Tickling is a great way to teach consent to young kids. Image: Shutterstock



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