• Mon, Apr 30 2012

I Put Makeup On My Toddler, But It’s Not About Looking Pretty

Lindsay Cross makeup

UPDATE: Due to the dangerous nature of some comments that make-up for young kids “is one of the reasons pedophiles exist,” we also want to point out the serious problems with victim-blaming women and girls for their assault or abuse. 

Last week I wrote that my daughter wears make-up for special events or family get togethers. Today, that feels like a much more serious confession than it did even a week ago. Today, Good Morning America aired a segment about my daughter and I, specifically asking if she’s too young to be playing with big girl beauty products.

First of all, I have to say that I’ve been incredibly honored and excited to be involved with GMA. The amazing correspondent who flew to Indiana, Paula Faris, is already besties with my daughter. That tea party scene in the clip wasn’t just b-roll, Brenna actually had a tea party with Paula just because the two got along so well. All in all, I feel fortunate to have sparked some conversation about appearance and confidence for young girls.

I have to admit that there was one line in the segment that made me cringe and it’s one that I want to talk more about. During their conversation, Paula asked my daughter why she liked wearing makeup. My naturally adorable little girl replied, “Because it makes me pretty.”

No matter what else is said in that segment, it kind of comes down to that statement. Of course, I wish that they would’ve asked, “Are you pretty without your makeup?” I think Brenna would’ve said yes. But Robin Roberts correctly pointed out that this was a key piece of the conversation, this idea that a young child thinks makeup helps her be more beautiful.

As adults, we know that’s not true. At least, not for children. I am well aware that Brenna is a gorgeous little girl, whether she gets into my blush or not. When it comes to grown women wearing make-up, well the jury is still out on that. Women will debate that issue for the rest of their lives but its not the conversation that I want to have today.

I think its important to point out that I don’t want my child to wear makeup because I want to present her as a beautiful little doll to the world. This wasn’t a practice that I encouraged or directed. And as Paula pointed out, I don’t let my daughter put on layers of foundation and mascara. This is not a Toddlers & Tiaras-level issue. It’s more like light blush and lipgloss. My daughter saw her mom putting on makeup and simply wanted to mimic my actions. She wanted to pretend she was a grown-up and play with with grown-up things. And yes, she wanted to be pretty, like her mommy.

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  • JAG

    My daughters think a shiny top makes them look prettier or a fancy pair of shoes or a pretty dress…that’s just how it is. Same thing with make-up or fixing their hair up nice. Or a necklace…or earrings…or a bracelet…the list of things that make little girls feel pretty is endless!!!! Lol : ) Make-up is no different. You’re a good mommy with good intentions…having a special “mommy and me” bonding time with make-up. You aren’t telling her that she NEEDS make-up to be pretty, you aren’t telling her that society WANTS her to look like that. I know you’ve gotten some negative feedback from some moms but this mom is one your side! And I’m a damn good mom, lol : )

  • Dan

    She said she wants to wear it to “LOOK PRETTY” you DO NOT NEED makeup to look pretty why do mom’s these days ALWAYS have to go overboard and HAVE to wear makeup for real YOU DO NOT NEED TO WEAR MAKE UP ALL THE TIME WHEN YOU GO OUT TO LOOK PRETTY GOOD GOD!!

    • LCT

      WHY DO TROLLS ALWAYS USE ALL CAPS!!!

    • Caitlin

      She was not going overboard! And did you even read her article? Look, when I was little, I was like her daughter. Lots of things made me feel like I look pretty. And I was always told that I was pretty. And she tells her daughter she looks pretty. She was just bonding with her child, and she says they only put make up on during special occasions. That’s not going overboard. She’s parenting.

    • Caitlin

      Trolls always use caps because they wish to make themselves look stronger over the internet.

  • Jason

    You sound like a perfectly reasonable, conscientious parent to me and I agree with your logic. But, you’ve been caught up in a cultural discussion which transcends your specific situation. I hope you don’t feel personally judged by what people say, as most of their opinions are based not in the facts of your case, but in the whole discussion on the sexualization of children. The key question people should ask isn’t whether you let your child wear makeup, but what lessons your child learns from your decision to let her (or him in other cases) or not. You can teach your child the wrong message about makeup while still forbidding them from using it, especially if you make them think it’s something special just for grownups. As long as she knows that makeup is for fun and that she is a valuable person for more than just her looks (which is sounds like YOU are doing, so this isn’t directed at you), then your kid’s self-esteem won’t be bound by superficial concerns.

    • common sence

      The facts of her own case ? what the hell ever happened to common sence? Make up is for adults not children aside from the chemicals in the makeup the fact that it causes children to rely on makeup to be visibly acceptable in public #1 and children should always be taught that is a difference between actions and products that are for adult and children. just as the same goes for alcohol, smoking products. sex and other thinfs that are not to be engaged in befpre a certain age. Yes there is a lihk between these different things. The link is children are children and adults are adults and so are the things ment for each. There is only ONE way to parent. RESPONSIBILY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Another Steph

      Your case was shot the moment you misspelled ‘sense’.

    • rdswaim

      Thank heavens someone else has some sense! I fully agree with you about being able to send the wrong message while forbidding them to use it, It’s a thin line we straddle as parents. Sometimes I thank god I had a boy, so I won’t come under fire for something as small as this!

  • autumn

    I think women everywhere should talk about self esteem and the difference between feeling beautiful for yourself and feeling beautiful for others. Although Brenna said make up made her feel pretty, it does not mean she’s going to grow up to be a mini barbie because thats what society thinks its pretty. As long as, we as parents, have that conversation with our children about self esteem and what it truly means to be beautiful then why should we feel guilty if they do little things, like wearing makeup, because they think they looks pretty with it on. We ALL do things that make us feel pretty from buying clothes we like, to bubble baths to perfume. My bottles of bath and body body wash and lotion make me feel like the prettiest girl in the world, but its mostly for me. Lets face it, I don’t share my shower, its just me in there. Although I have not researched it, I would bet societies hundreds of years ago had women who did things that made them feel beautiful. Whose to say that because we do things to make ourselves feel beautiful and feminine that means we are selling out to this materialistic, sexist society where women should be 100lbs and blonde? Its our responsibility as parents to help our children build their self esteem and self worth based on criteria other then what society sets for us. So let Brenna play dress up and wear make up, she will only be a little girl once :) And, one more point, lets not over analyze every little thing our children do or say :)

  • Linda-Jean

    I cannot believe so many people are so uptight about something as simple as make-up! After all, it’s simply painting in 3D ! What happened to free expression! Come in people, it’s make-up not a tattoo for a 4 yr old. It’s something millions of little girls love to do! You have to ask yourself, if your son had expressed the same interest in make- up, and you let him… Would be hailed as modern Mom for not crushing his creative spirit! Hell Yes!

  • Mayra

    I dont think people should care how other parents raise their children n ok it is not right but you should turn around n make kid makeup like edible stuff n mineral based colors that are not harmfull to a young skin doesnt mean people will start putting make up on all babies but it should be more of a playtime thing only alot safer

  • Karen

    UGH, another “professional” telling us mothers how we are screwing up our kids. Really? My 7 year old daughter loves to paint her toenails. If I don’t feel like getting out the nail kit she will paint them with her markers. She likes to play in my makeup because “that’s what mommy does.” She isn’t basing her entire life concept of beauty on wearing makeup or painting her nails. She just thinks it’s fun. Good for you for sticking to your guns and not letting people destroy this special thing you do with your daughter. She is going to look back on her childhood and think “doing makeup with mommy was fun.”

  • Jules

    A) your little girl IS adorable and B) everyone should have something that makes them feel pretty and confident. As long as what makes her feel pretty comes from her own thoughts and not from someone telling her that she needs it, that’s perfectly okay.

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  • Jamie

    I have a beautiful 5 year old daughter and while I hate shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” I occasionally let my daughter wear “makeup” (on special occasions) Such as a little bit of sparkly eyeshadow and some lip gloss. Most days we are both au nautral! I believe it is completely normal for children to emulate their parents (it’s how they learn). But she knows that she is gorgeous all on her own.

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  • Sydney

    I dont get why everyone is making such a big deal about this. Its not like your doing her up like one of those little girls on toddlers and tiaras. Its just simple eye shadow and lip gloss. Not mascara, liner, coverup, the whole shabang. Its cute and its just makeup. Its not like shes wearing a thong and “bra”.

    • Pannecake

      exactly!!! My sister in law puts eyeliner whiskers using adult make up on my niece. She lets my niece apply make up on herself because its cute and funny and my niece laughs at how she looks…. She’s two and will grab my other sister’s make up pallete and say “Make petty gace” (Make me pretty grace”

      Its not that my two year old niece doesn’t think she’s pretty without it… its just she sees her mom and aunt do their make up and she wants to be a big girl. and hwen my sister is told to “Make pretty” my sister always says “Brodie you are already the prettiest girl ever” and then lets my niece choose the colours…usually outrageous blues and pinks….

      Its cute. I did it when I was a kid and I was never sexualised, kid napped, or started having sex at 14. I’m 21, I’m responsible as a 21 year old can be, I don’t dress in short shorts and tube tops, I don’t throw myself at every man, and I do not wear make up (aside from mascara) every day. I only do my make up when I want to play around… much like my niece I use my make up to do skull faces or fairy wings on my eyes for laughs.

      its innocent…and cute.

  • Caitlin Dickson

    I just wanted to let you know that you are a wonderful mother and a strong woman! I saw this on Yahoo news, and I was so confused that people thought that a mother bonding with her child was “disgusting” . Your daughter is absolutely adorable, and she is going to grow up to be an amazing woman! Stay strong, and don’t let those hateful people bring you down! They don’t understand the connection you have with your beautiful daughter!

    • common sence

      Allowing a child to wear something ment for adults has nothing to do with being a strong woman.Allowing ypur child to act and conduct themselves as an adult is not exactly bonding. A parent can bond with thier child while emphesizing to the child that they still a childand aren;t to do adult things until they become adults. ex. makeup , sex drinking ect.

  • mimi

    I am so thankful that some people are taking this topic for what it was meant. An innocent play routine you do with your child. One that is repeated in millions of homes each day. Young children love to imitate the adults in their life and that is developmentally appropriate. What is really wrong is the people making the negative comments who have not taken the time to read both of your articles. The time limit of the Good Morning America interview made it impossible for the whole story to be told on TV. Brenna is a beautiful little girl who is fortunate to have a mommy who takes the time to have special routines with her.

    • Karen

      While I agree that children mimic their parents and playing dress up is fun but for a mother to allow her child to use “adult” makeup and go out in public at the age of four is appalling. It sets the child up for false expectations. What happens when she’s in 1st or 2nd grade and wants to wear make-up everyday to school. The school will have a problem because she’s being disruptive with the way she looks. I highly suggest you rethink what you’re teaching your young daughter. Also, as was discussed this morning on GMA, your daughter may eventually believe she can’t leave the house without makeup on for fear she isn’t pretty. The key with raising children is activities that are age appropriate. Rethink what you’re teaching and find something a more her age to bond with her.

  • tonesha

    Wow, the mom is just having fun with her little girl. Let’s worry if there is some abuse going on. People make such a big deal out of innocent things.

  • Larkin

    I wore make-up all the time when I was a kid. I did it for fun because it ‘made me look pretty’ Now as an adult I don’t wear it. Well maybe every once in awhile I will wear some gloss and some blush but as for everyday NOTHING. Get off this mom’s back. Her daughter is having fun and there is nothing wrong with it. Don’t be so quick to judge because I’m sure there are things you do that others wouldn’t approve of.

    • Common sence

      Notice how people throw that word ” judge ” around like it’s free candy. The truth is we judge everyday all of the time . When we say somebody looks good or are a nice person that is a judgement as well the only time we referr to it as judgement is when it is something someone doesn’t want to hear whether it is true or not. Because you wore makeup as a child doesn’t mean it isn.t wrong. A child should not be allowed to do something because thier parent does it. If that were the case why not let them drive or smoke or come and go in and out of the house as they please.

  • Annie

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing makeup for fun. Obviously the little girl feels comfortable without it. When you think about wearing mommy’s blush is no different from trying on dress up clothes. It’s not real and as long as the child understands it theres nothing wrong with it.

  • LStein

    If it is so “innocent”, why use adult products? Why not use kiddie colors? Ribbons in her hair and a little bit of makeup? No comment posted here will reach a twisted messed up mind that would sexualize her TODDLER and then claim it is in the interest of “bonding” and it is “innocent”. It is bad enough that pedophiles get off on little girls…parading them in full makeup just makes me want to VOMIT. But go ahead, and then when she starts tripping in life because people are wanting a “piece” of her for her looks (and that is not a pun), then go ahead and deflect that too. I just hope your daughter has enough intelligence to get help instead of thinking there is something wrong with her, when in fact, it was how she was RAISED.

    • Autumn

      Why is wearing make up equated with sexualizing this little girl? There is a lot more that goes into sexualizing children then wearing make up. This little girl is not being paraded around in mini skirts, tube tops, high heels with bright red lipstick on. She’s wearing a little make up and wearing it how her mom does. I think for you to come on here and claim this child is being sexualized and is going to grow up needing help because basically she’s going to become promiscuous is overly dramatic. And just because she wears a little make up does not mean this parent is not setting limits or letting her run wild all over the neighborhood. Like I said, I think you are being a tad dramatic.

    • Fabel

      Wow @LStein, what?? Sorry to say, but pedophiles “get off” on children no matter if they’re wearing makeup or not.

    • Amanda

      your an idiot. the woman didnt put hooker makeup on the kid. you could barely tell the kid has it on. everyone needs to worry about the real problems in life. HUNGER, POVERTY those types of things. Leave parenting that child up to the PARENTS.

    • rdswaim

      I believe that she clearly stated in the article that it was just a little lip gloss and blush. That’s practically nothing. Did you even read the article, or just the title? This mom has a very good grip on reality, and she has a wonderful relationship with her daughter. Her daughter will probably grow up to be a strong, independent, well-adjusted person. Get off your high horse. All little girls want to wear mommy’s makeup, and it seems more harmful to me to tell them that it’s taboo.

  • Melissa Herron

    I have a 4-year old daughter as well. She loves to get into my makeup and put it on. It’s her way of being like mommy. You ask any child that age why the do the things they do, and you will hear a response that they more than likely have heard a parent say…..why do you wear makeup??…to feel pretty. I have said the same answer to that question to my daughter when asked to me. Kudos to the mom for allowing her daughter to have fun and be like her!!

    • common sence

      If she has sex at age 14 and gets pregnant would the reason ” being more like mommy” be acceptable ? Children should not be allowed to question what thier parents do. That is not a childs place thats why you’re the parent and your child is the child. A responsilbe parent sets limits even with what some might consider small things because small things now become big things later and respect and dicipline for the parent by the child goes out the window.

    • Katie

      You are far from the common sense in this article. Sense dosent have a c in it in the first place.

      I wore make up like my Mum when I was a child, I wore some lipgloss and some powder and it was for FUN.

      I am now a 35yr old woman who does not have a sex tape, who does not have self esteem issues, I was pregnant at 27, not 14 and I let my child wear make up because it is harmless FUN.

      Fun, familiar with that word?

      Your common ‘sence’ is not so sensible.

  • Tracey

    I have to say that the villification of this poor mum is just extraordinary. So she lets her daughter put on a little bit of makeup – I did too when my daughter was a little girl. Little girls on the whole love the pretty sparkly things, and I speak as a mum who didn’t. I tried to ensure that my daughter didn’t have stereotypes thrust upon her, and she still wanted the pink sparkly things. And I’m not alone in this.
    This mum is doing what many mums before her have done. We’re not talking about the beauty pageants where little girls are so made up they look unreal, we are talking about a little bit of lip gloss. I feel for this poor lady, there has been a knee jerk reaction to a harmless bit of mother/daughter time by people who are so obsessed with the sexualisation of children I begin to wonder why.

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  • Jessie

    Great Mother Goddess… All the hate and rage thrown at this poor woman over some lip gloss and blush on a toddler. -_-
    Look people, just because a child wears make up for special occasions and play-time does NOT mean she will grow up to be a harlot, or get abducted by a pedophile, or any of the other insane things I’m reading. In fact, the pedophile argument is the most ridiculous. because that is like blaming an adult woman for being raped because of how she was dressed. Rapists and pedophiles are sick people, they will do what they do regardless of how their victim looks.
    Yes, some of the things in make up might be harmful to her skin, but they are no more harmful than they are to an adult’s skin, and as long as they are properly washed off after whatever event or play time they are used for she will be FINE. I’ve worn minimal make up for special events, dance recitals, and play time from the time I was three years old and look! I’m a perfectly normal, healthy, well adjusted 24 year old now.

    Honestly, people these days throw fits over the most ridiculous things… Good for you, Lindsay, for sticking to your guns and not letting the haters bring you down.

    • Jessie

      *ridiculous, because
      Sorry, I can’t type very well in the morning, not until I’ve had my caffiene.

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  • Shannon

    Oh Boy… LOL… sorry to laugh, but I just do NOT get it! Of COURSE makeup makes you feel and look pretty!!! That’s why we wear it! :) I think teaching your child how to wear makeup at a young age avoids the catastrophic makeup applications later in teen years and it takes away the allure and rebel-like status makeup sometimes comes with. Makeup, to most women, is like brushing our teeth… a must! It is also a way to express ourselves, at any age! Heck, my son likes his sisters to put makeup on him and paint his toes! People will always find a way to criticize someone else, especially in parenting! Have a good laugh at the crazy posts… especially the one that says “Only trolls use all caps!” That one made me LOL!!!!! Enjoy that doll-baby of a daughter! Best of luck!

    • Rebecca

      That’s what I was thinking, Shannon. It doesn’t seem like drastic make up and if the kid’s enjoying it what’s the big deal. It’s not as if Lindsay was like “You NEED this make up, so that you’ll be prettier”.
      Women wear make up to make themselves prettier, or, to be more “politically correct”, to enhance the beauty that is already there.
      Now me, personally, I don’t allow my daughter to wear more than lip gloss outside of the house. She is 7 years old. But *I* know my daughter and my baby takes it too far lol she wants full stage make up, not anything simple lol. give her an inch and she’ll take a mile.
      But I am not opposed to a baby girl being happy playing in mommy’s make up and going out like that. It’s not immoral, it’s not illicit, it’s not neglectful. Mommy’s right there and if that’s what they wanna do, it’s fine.
      PEOPLE JUST NOSEY!

  • Priscilla Reyes

    The mother might want to put some make-up on while she is at it…a lot of make-up.

    • Autumn

      Its one thing to post your opinion on the matter, its another to be simply mean and cruel.

  • Ryan

    Dear Parents,

    I am a teenage girl, and I believe that you need my point of view.

    All that I wanted when I was a little girl was to wear makeup, because it made me feel like a princess. There is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary with this little girl saying that she wants to wear it to look pretty.

    Moms, isn’t that why you wear it?

    The way that society has attacked this mother is outrageous. And having “certified pshyciatrists” say that she has a problem with parenting is just wrong.

    I am in highschool, and I know for a fact that you have to do way more than apply makeup to your toddler to turn them into a spoiled brat. Believe me, I see people like that every day.

    In my opinion, I highly respect this woman for posting her confessions, and I would like to apoligize to her for being criticized on her parenting.

  • Johnny Filexican

    You disgust me, lady.

  • Johnny Filexican

    You disgust me, lady. Something is wrong with you.

    • Jennifer

      That kind of insult is unnecessary.

  • Mellissa

    I do not think there is anything wrong with it at all. I babysit a lot and I have alot of nieces. They all love dress up, getting their nails done & having make up on their face! I say if it’s harmless and the little girl loves it butt out! She’s the mom. We focus way to much on petty things!

  • Jessica

    Everyone needs to relax really there are bigger issues in this world than a great mom spending time with her daughter! I have 2 daughters and the both like to dress up and dance around the house, in their princess dresses and high heel shoes! The love watching me put on makeup and the like to wear it too! I however do not let them leave the house in it and they both know that they are much prettier without it and only old ladies like their mom breed it to be pretty ( and yes 30 is old to them). I think if people are getting worked up about this they need to get a life there are kids in this world being exploited spend this effort helping them and leave this poor mom alone she is doing great!

  • ellen

    I’m concerned that a blogger misuses their/there/they’re.

    Maybe all the makeup is getting to your pretty little head.

  • Meg

    Just to throw something positive out there for you, I think what you’re doing is fine and normal– I mean, they make little kid makeup kits! Hell, when I was little, my favorite thing EVER was my Dr. Pepper lip gloss and peel off nail polish. Little girls play dress up and put on makeup, it’s not like Ms. Cross is putting her in layers of makeup and sending her out on a street corner…

  • Another Steph

    I haven’t commented yet because I agree with the majority, but I just wanted to say props to Lindsay for handling all this so well. I think it’s so fantastic that this issue has generated so much discussion, but I also think it’s disgusting that a few commenters have stooped to using personal insults. Boo to you guys.

  • Tina Lynn

    It amazes me the level of hatred over blush and lip gloss…and the grammar police is out in full force. I have to say that I’m a mother and a grandmother – my daughters loved mommy’s makeup. A little lipstick and a bit of blush; it was fun to pretend that your older. My 2 year old granddaughter got her nails painted sparkly blue the other day by me. She said “it’s pretty”. Yes it’s pretty. I also want to point out that my 10 year old grandson will tell me that my nails are a pretty color “if” he likes the color I’ve chosen. My daughter’s are normal working parents that are not on street corners. I’ve raised my children to be happy and healthy adults – that little bit of polish, lip gloss and blush didn’t phase them and send them out of control. You cannot raise your children with the “Do as I say not as I do” attitude.

  • Kaleigh

    Is this real life? Seriously? The fact that you have to defend this is so depressing. Wearing mommy’s heels and getting “made up” was a big part of my childhood, and I am no worse for the wear. When we had weddings/big family events my mom would usually put some mascara, lips tip and blush on me. It wasn’t because she didn’t think I was beautiful, and I didn’t think I was ugly without it—I just welcomed the chance to be a big girl, like my mom! It’s seriously crazy how much this is blown out of proportion.

  • Kaleigh

    Is this real life? Seriously? The fact that you have to defend this is so depressing. Wearing mommy’s heels and getting “made up” was a big part of my childhood, and I am no worse for the wear. When we had weddings/big family events my mom would usually put some mascara, lips tip and blush on me. It wasn’t because she didn’t think I was beautiful, and I didn’t think I was ugly without it—I just welcomed the chance to be a big girl, like my mom! It’s seriously crazy how much this is blown out of proportion.

  • Grey

    Dear Lindsay Cross,
    With all the feedback you are getting on this subject, I’m probably wasting my time writing this comment but I feel so strongly about this subject, I have to say something.
    I don’t think that you are doing anything wrong and it’s a shame that you have received so much negativity on this subject. Curling your daughters hair and putting some make up on her for special events isn’t going to traumatize her, it isn’t child abuse and it most certainly is NOT “inviting” pedophiles. Make up is part of the world we live in, like it or not but what most people seem to not realize is that it isn’t about how it makes you look, it’s how it makes you feel and I think that getting ready like that together probably makes your daughter feel like a pretty young woman going out to a fun celebration. It’s probably fun for her, it’s probably something special, like wearing a new Easter dress or getting to do something “like a big kid.” I doubt that you are giving her a complex and I also doubt that if she started to develop a complex you wouldn’t try to correct it.

  • alison

    My mom put makeup on me for special dress-up events when I was a kid, though it WAS because she didn’t think I looked beautiful enough without it. I remember being coated with blush because “you look sick without it”. It was the 80s, of course, so when you look back at those pictures you see a pale little girl with too-long hair and bright red cheeks. I looked like a Victorian scarlet fever patient. Thank you, mom.

    I somehow learned that I looked okay without makeup (though I do wear foundation) despite this, and also that it didn’t really matter that much. But I think it’s perfectly fine to teach a kid that we wear makeup because it’s fun – it’s a big step up from teaching her that we wear makeup because other people will think we’re ugly if we don’t.

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  • Sonya

    I really liked this article and how it reminds us of “everything in moderation.” It reminds me of the great debate of being naked around your children. Some people believe it’s going to warp and twist their young mind, but on the other hand they’ll learn to be comfortable with the human body. Also, the expectations of seeing a naked body won’t be immediately associated with sex. It won’t be a surprise when the child finally sees a naked body. Perhaps prevent the child from feeling shame over their own body. Maybe that could be the same for make up. Making it fun and artistic and not something necessary for wrangling to opposite sex.