Learning Guide 4 - 5: Our Bodies
As your child begins their transition out of early childhood you may notice that a new version of them begins to emerge. Along with their internal growth, their bodies are shifting and changing too! We can help our children have a positive body image and love for their bodies as they grow, change and learn new things.
What is a positive body image?
Having a positive body image means that we appreciate our bodies in a holistic way. We feel good about what our body looks like and what it can do. When we appreciate our bodies in this way, it has positive impacts for our self esteem and our overall health. Early childhood is an important time to support a child’s view of themselves - that includes supporting a positive relationship to their bodies.
Learn and be amazed
The more we know and understand about our bodies the easier it is to appreciate the everyday miracle that they are! Cultivate an attitude of wonder as you teach your child about their body. As always, follow their amazing questions. “How does your body heal itself after you get a scrape?” If you don’t know very much about bodies, make it a research project and learn together! A few child-friendly books about the body are in the resource area. At this age, the simplicity of researching through books will be more supportive than an online search.
If your child is not interested in researching with you, spend some time learning about bodies yourself and share the gems of what you are learning. Don’t shy away from complicated topics - just try to find a piece that is wonderful and amazing. Share the “headline” rather than the details at first, and follow their interest.
Teach caring for your body
Part of appreciating your body is caring for it. In Montessori classrooms there are many “care of self” lessons, that include how to brush your hair, clip your nails etc. At home, you can continue this work, supporting your child’s ability to care for their bodies on their own.
As an extension to this idea, introduce ideas about healthy eating and exercise as “care of self” lessons. For example: when you are talking about eating sugar, let children know that too much sugar makes it hard to concentrate, stay still or go to sleep at night. Let them know that eating protein helps bodies grow and get strong. If you want your child to view these eating choices in a healthy way do not talk about food choices in terms of their perceived impact on weight or shape of a body. Always link choices about food and movement to how those choices make you feel or how that choice supports your body's health!
Modeling is the key ingredient
What we say and express about our own bodies has an enormous impact on our children’s ability to form a positive body image. Modeling this kind of positive relationship to our bodies can be challenging for many reasons. Here are some tips to make it easier!
Say it loud
Modeling body positivity is mostly about letting your child hear your positive feelings and thoughts about your own body. It is essentially “narrating” for them what we hope their internal dialogue about their bodies will grow to be. These statements will always have more force and power if they are statements you truly believe. If you are working toward more body positivity yourself - you can use these statements as positive affirmations!
Seeing the good
Make it a regular practice to notice all the things your body does for you each day. Mention at least one a day, out loud, while your child is listening. When carrying groceries into the house I often say “I’m a strong Mama!”. When my daughter was three, she carried a big bucket of sand and said simply to herself “I’m a strong girl!”
Gratitude all the time
Statements of gratitude can also work wonders for your child’s relationship to their body. One way to grow gratitude for your body is to give thanks for one thing your body does for you every day. Of course, expressing this gratitude out loud lets you model that gratitude for your little one. Some examples are: “I am so glad I can taste these blueberries - thank you taste buds!” or “I love walking with you - thank you legs!”
A growth mindset
Our bodies can’t always do everything we want them to do. When that is the case, it is an opportunity to practice and model a growth mindset. Instead of “I don’t have great balance.” you can try “I am really working on my balance.” If you are talking about your child’s abilities, try to always frame their challenges through the lens of a growth mindset as well. “You are really working on your balance! Your body is learning new things everyday.”
Examples of body books for your child
The Human Body Shine - A - Light Book by Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders
My First Book of the Human Body with Lots of Fantastic Stickers by Chiara Piroddi
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson