Body Positivity For Little Ones
It might seem like you can wait until the teenage years to teach the concept of body positivity to your kids, but it’s actually important to start much earlier - even before kindergarten! Even toddlers are very perceptive and observant when they watch the way adults talk about their bodies, what they complain about, how they dress, and how they look at themselves in a mirror. Since toddlers and preschoolers are just starting to focus on what makes them unique and independent individuals, this can be a great time to introduce some body-positive chats into your daily life!
Research shows that children who lack body confidence and are not taught that all bodies are to be celebrated are much more likely to deal with issues such as low self-esteem, mood disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety and depression. Children learn by observing and mimicking their caregivers, so it’s important to set your child up for a successful journey of loving her body even from an early age.
Toddlers begin to notice their body at about age 1, which is a great time to practice learning about what makes our bodies unique and special.
Parents should encourage their toddlers to really get to know their bodies. You can play a game like “Simon Says” to prod your child to point to different parts of the body (start with the basics like head, feet, hands, nose, eyes). Between 15 and 24 months, a toddler will be able to recognize himself in the mirror, which can be a good time to try other fun games such as asking him to point to different parts of his body as he looks at his reflection. You can discuss parts of the body while dressing your child, changing your child, and bathing your child. As your child reaches preschool age, you can talk about what different body parts are important for, such as her nose for smelling, her tongue for tasting food, and her feet for helping her walk and run.
Promoting body positivity can begin as early as the preschool years, but is especially helpful during the early school years.
A child who is comfortable moving his body and exercising will most likely be a confident child. Kids can learn to recognize and be proud of their own strength and endurance. Make exercise a part of your daily routine and not a chore. And if you personally take time to exercise, be careful to talk about it in a positive light instead of complaining that you have to go to the gym or go on a run. Make physical activity fun, and not just a way to stay in shape or lose weight. Take an evening walk after dinner, go to a neighborhood park, or go on a family bike ride together on the weekends. Encourage your kids to be involved in sports or music and movement classes. A strong child will be a proud, confident child!
Although the pediatrician probably discusses your child’s BMI and where they are on the growth curve at every visit, it’s important to emphasize to your child that these are just basic standards and not some kind of ideal. There is so much more to “being healthy” than having a BMI that falls within a certain category. You are your child’s best role model, too. Don’t let your child watch you obsessively step on the scale every morning, only to berate and belittle yourself about not shedding pounds as quickly as you’d like to. Model to your child what it means to be healthy. Can you walk and run without feeling like you’re going to collapse? Are you comfortable in your clothes? Do you enjoy physical activity and playing outside? Do you feel good when you feed your body a wide variety of produce, whole grains, and lean proteins? Show your child what it means to have good healthy habits.
Avoid oversimplifying matters by fixating on “good” foods and “bad” foods. There truly aren’t any “bad” foods out there, but certain foods must be eaten in moderation. Even young kids can benefit from looking at a food pyramid and learning about which foods should be eaten often, and which should be saved for special occasions. You can teach your child about portion control by buying divided plates, and pointing out the different food categories in your child’s meal that make it a balanced, healthy meal. Don’t hide junk food or teach your child that it’s never okay to eat chips and candy. Instead, focus on playing up all the great benefits of eating healthy foods, such as helping them grow up big and strong, giving them energy to play, and helping them sleep better at night.
Bullying is a big issue in schools these days. Set your child up to not only be confident in her body, but to help her friends and classmates be confident in themselves, too. Teach your child that all bodies are different, but that’s what makes them special. Make sure your child understands that if he is getting bullied, he needs to tell a teacher or another adult, and that if he sees another person being bullied, he should do the same. Help your child understand what it means to be a good friend.
With these main goals in mind, your child will have a great start to a lifetime of feeling good about his body. While all bodies are different, and people come in all shapes and sizes, it’s important to celebrate our differences and the special qualities that make us unique!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.