Kids dry humping

Some parents become concerned when they see their young child dry humping. However, this behaviour is completely normal and generally nothing to be worried about. As humans, we’re drawn to do things which feel good. Children are no exception, though are too young to have developed skills to understand that what they are doing could cause their parents to feel uncomfortable.

What is dry humping in children?

Dry humping is when a child makes body movements which appear to mimic sexual intercourse. They move their hips and pelvis in a deliberate thrusting action, or rock rhythmically in a backwards and forwards motion. The child appears to get pleasure from this.

Children often position themselves against a pillow, a soft toy, couch or something which creates resistance as they push against it. Individual children can show different types of dry humping behaviour. Some are choosier than others about what they prefer to push themselves against and have preferred pillows, cot/bed linen of toys they find suit them better.

In adults, dry humping is also called ‘outercourse’ as the man’s penis does not penetrate the woman’s vagina. Dry humping in children can happen when the child is fully dressed or when they are naked.

Dry humping is not restricted to one gender – boys and girls will do it.

Why is my child dry humping?

Put simply, they do it because it feels good. Some kids only dry hump when they are bored, sleepy or seeking to comfort themselves. When they first discover the pleasure they get from dry humping, children tend to do it a lot. As they mature and are able to seek sensory pleasure from other activities e.g. games, communicating and general interaction, they tend to stop dry humping. For most children, dry humping is a developmental stage which stops without any special intervention.

Some children will start when they see other kids dry humping. It may not have occurred to them until that point. Children are great imitators and when they see other little kids dry humping, they may have a go themselves.

Children who dry hump are not doing it because it is a sexual activity. They are just soothing themselves, in a similar way to comfort sucking or sucking their thumb.

What can I do about my child’s dry humping?

The simple answer is, nothing. Most children outgrow dry humping when they get bored with it or find something else has triggered their imagination and interest. Some children will only do it a couple of times before they stop, others can do it for months. Some start dry humping when they are babies, others during the toddler years and pre-school years.

Speak with your older children about not laughing or making fun of their sibling who is dry humping. The key is to avoid giving negative feedback or which could cause the child to feel dirty or naughty.

Try not to give your child too much attention when they are doing it. If you or other people are bothered by it, gently direct your child into their own room or a more private space to continue.

Don’t punish or humiliate your child for doing it. There’s no benefit in attaching negative feelings on something which they only know feels good. Kids dry humping behaviour is generally best ignored.

If your child is doing it all the time, consider if they are on track with other aspects of their development. The primary source of reassurance and security for young children needs to come from parents and caregivers. if your child seems quiet, has delayed social or language skills or you are worried, have them checked by your GP.

Written for Huggies by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, August 2021.