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Playing doctor

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"Playing doctor" is a phrase used colloquially in the western world to refer to children examining each other's genitals.[1] It originates from children using the pretend roles of doctor and patient as a pretext for such an examination. Nevertheless, whether or not such role playing is actually involved, the phrase is still used to refer to any similar examination.[2][3][4][5][6]

Playing doctor is considered by most child psychologists to be a normal step in childhood sexual development between the ages of approximately three and six years, although it can be a source of discomfort to some parents, when they discover their children are engaging in such an activity.[7] Parenting professionals often advise parents to view such a discovery as an opportunity to calmly teach their children about the differences between the sexes, the importance of modesty, and respecting the privacy and bodies of other children.[4]

Adults also use the phrase facetiously in similar reference, to refer to adult sexual activity.[8]

See also Edit


  1. Is Your Preschooler Playing Doctor?. FamilyEducation. URL accessed on 4 September 2009. Excerpted from: (1997-06) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too, USA: Penguin Group.
  2. Pike, Lynn Blinn (2001). Sexuality and Your Child: For Children Ages 3 to 7. University of Missouri Extension. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.
  3. Kennedy, Kevin Sexual abuse? or just playing 'Doctor'?. MedHelp. Self-published. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Clayton, Victoria Playing doctor: How to teach kids about inappropriate touch. Growing Up Healthy. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.
  5. Heins, Marilyn (2004). Sex Play: parenting strategies. ParentKidsRight. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.
  6. (2005). Why Your Child Plays Doctor. Advice from Experts. Fisher-Price. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.
  7. I Caught Them Playing Doctor!. FamilyEducation. URL accessed on 4 September 2009. Excerpted from: (1997-06) Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips, McGraw-Hill.
  8. Grzeskowiak, Mark Playing Doctor. MedHunters. URL accessed on 4 September 2009.

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