Explaining Ultrasounds for Preschoolers

I had my baseline ultrasound this morning, and I had to take GeekBaby with me. My mother had him all last week, and this, being a baseline ultrasound, was scheduled at the last minute so I didn't know exactly when I would be having it. I had hoped to avoid it entirely by being pregnant, but that didn't work out.

Since I had to take GeekBaby, I spent the drive to the doctor's office discussing the ultrasound with him. I wanted him to understand what the doctor was doing and that it didn't hurt (much), so he wouldn't be scared. Then I had him tell it back to me, so I could see what he understood and answer any other questions.

The ultrasound I explained in terms of echoes. It's a tool that makes echoes, and then uses them to draw a picture of the insides of our bodies. GeekBaby asked if they were going to do the ultrasound on my belly, and that got us into the discussion of female anatomy.

I chose my terminology carefully, using 'womb' and 'birth canal' over the usual anatomical terms, because he understands body parts primarily in terms of function. He already knows that babies grow in the womb, but the birth canal was a new concept. We talked about the hip bones, and about how they protect the womb and the birth canal. And then I told him that, because my womb was small right now, the doctor would need to put the ultrasound tool in my birth canal for the ultrasound to see it.

He asked if it would hurt, and I said no. He didn't have any more questions after that, so after he described the ultrasound back to me, I let him sit quietly to process it. He was quiet for a little while, then, to my astonishment asked why they didn't use an x-ray!

Apparently he learned about x-rays on Word World. Frog and Duck built an x-ray to look inside Shark's tummy for Duck's missing letter X.

I told him x-rays were good for looking at hard parts of the body, like bones, but ultrasounds were better for looking at the soft parts. Then he asked if his pediatrician used x-rays, and we ended up having a rather lengthy discussion about them.

I was surprised by the connection he drew between ultrasounds and x-rays, but it's a delight to watch him learn. As he gets older, we have more and more conversations like this. I hope that, whatever schooling he ends up getting, that we can keep his real education going at the same pace.

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