The “childhood” phase ranges from birth to puberty. Very few changes occur with the male reproductive tract during this time. Below are a few highlights.
Scrotum – In childhood the scrotum is usually not as loose as it will be during puberty and adulthood. The color of the scrotum is roughly the same as that of all other skin on the body.
Testicles before puberty are very small (often no larger than a peanut). The testicles should remain in the scrotum during childhood. However, this may not always be the case. Testicles can be found outside the scrotum at birth or may retract back up inside the inguinal canal during childhood (click HERE to learn more).
Perhaps the biggest thing to watch for during childhood occurs in boys who have not been circumcised. During childhood the foreskin will begin to retract. Retraction involves the foreskin separating from the glans (tip) of the penis. Typically at birth, the foreskin will adhere to the tip or glans of the penis. Some parents may want to help speed the retraction process by retracting their son’s foreskin during diaper changes or baths; however, the foreskin should NEVER be forced back. Retraction should be allowed to occur naturally and at its own pace. Retraction of the foreskin occurs at different rates for different boys. Sometimes it will occur shortly after birth, but usually it will not fully retract until puberty. In fact, nearly half of all boys will not have their foreskin fully retract before puberty. Forcing the foreskin back off the glans can cause tearing and bleeding and can be extremely painful. If the foreskin fully retracts at a very early age (when parents are still bathing the child), the foreskin should be retracted and washed with soap and water daily to remove smega (a smelly, wax like substance, produced by the foreskin). For boys that are circumcised, this is not an issue.
Young boys will occasionally get erections. This is not an indication that they are sexually aroused, but is a natural process that occurs either due to touch or hormones. In fact, in boys who are not circumcised, erections help the foreskin retract naturally.
Gender identity and gender roles also begin as a toddler and continue through the pre-school and elementary school ages. Having good role models of both adult women and men allows boys to establish healthy gender roles. Children should be taught correct terms for body parts, and sex education should occur in an age-appropriate way.
[i] AR Aslan, BA Kogan, TESTICULAR DESCENT, Fetal and Neonatal Physiology (Third Edition), 2004, 1956-60. or http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/page/Gubernaculum (6/15/17)