Why We Fart, An Explainer for Kids

If you really want to break it down and talk about farting and passing gas to your curious kids, it's best to try and explain it in terms they can understand.

Many parents of toddlers or young kids can relate: All of the sudden, one fateful day, your sweet child becomes obsessed with poops and toots. Everything becomes a fart joke to them, and there you are, listening to your once innocent child yell, "Poop!" or "Fart!" at the top of their lungs in front of strangers, everywhere you go.

My three-year old son has recently entered this glorious phase, which happens to be coinciding with him entering the "Why" phase. "Why, mommy?" is in constant rotation, day and night. Why do birds fly? Why are we having chicken for dinner? Why does Halloween exist? And, of course, why do we fart?

Girl sitting on whoopie cushion
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Ryan Peterson, M.D., a pediatrician at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas, says that taking a complex topic like the G.I. system and making it sound simple for children is key. "It's a balance of normalizing it but also not celebrating it," he says of explaining why and how we pass gas. The "not celebrating it" is to help tamp down on the fart jokes, since oftentimes kids tell those jokes because they are either scared or confused by their bodily functions, or they're trying to get some attention.

I chatted with a few more experts to get some tips on how to strike that perfect balance when talking about farts with kids. Here's what they had to say.

Use Pictures and Books

"I'll draw simple anatomy pictures to help explain where gas and constipation occur, and talk about prevention," Dr. Peterson says. If parents don't feel confident drawing simple anatomy, he recommends books like The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts, which can help a parent communicate with their child about what's happening with their body.

Skip the "Passing Gas" Phrase

Stanton Malowitz, M.D., who specializes in pediatric gastroenterology at The Woman's Hospital of Texas, says that instead of using "big medical terms," he'll talk to kids at their level. "I won't say passing gas, I'll usually just say everyone farts," he says. "It makes it funny and less scary for a child."

Most parents can handle saying "everyone farts," instead of explaining the G.I. system in technical terms. Dr. Peterson also recommends that if a child is having G.I. issues, parents should keep a diary of what the child is eating, so it's easier to pinpoint a possible cause of the excess gas or discomfort. "It's better to identify the trigger instead of eliminating important fruits and vegetables," he says.

Talk About Foods That Cause Farts

To help explain what causes gas, parents can also list out foods that could cause gas, like beans, legumes, certain whole grains and vegetables, chewing gum, or fizzy drinks. And a simple way to explain the smelliness is to tell kids that bacteria in your gut can produce compounds that contain sulfur… but that will probably go right over a toddler's head. Another option is to teach them the age-old song, "Beans beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot," and call it a day.

Reassure Them That Farting Is Normal

Most important, though, is to reassure them that everybody toots, and it's a natural, normal bodily function, one caused by air and gas being expelled from your system. That explanation will help, but there's no guarantee your child will stop with the fart jokes. That might take a little time, and a lot of patience.

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