Children love learning and discovering about themselves and what they can do with their bodies. The more children know about their body and what they can do the more they feel capable. Feeling capable leads to feeling great about one’s self and one’s abilities and positive self-esteem naturally follows.
Welcome to the October edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Body Awareness.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing how they actively influence their children’s body awareness and how they experience their own! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
What are some ways to help children learn about their bodies?
Naming Body Parts
Helping children learn about their bodies can start in early infancy, for example when changing a diaper, playing or doing tummy time, it’s great to talk to our babies and let them know we are touching their leg, kissing their toes, holding their hand and so on.
For the toddler, bath time is a great time to encourage independence while learning about one’s body “Can you scrub your knees?” “Can you find your elbow’?” and so on! Don’t forget to teach your children proper names for all their parts- feeling confident about one’s body is important throughout life and identifying a penis and vulva as part of the body should be the same as identifying an ear or an elbow. Of course, explaining that certain parts are private is important but avoid creating shame about it as it is counter productive to developing good self image. Also, if they ever have pain in a body part it’s much better if they can identify it properly to let you or a doctor know. Plus it also eliminates confusion, a toddler once ran terrified to his mom during our weekly playgroup in tears. Turns out another mom casually asked him if he liked eating noodles what do you know, “noodle” is what his parents had been calling his penis and that totally scared and confused him – oops!
Toddlers and preschoolers love to sing songs like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and other silly songs that talk about body parts. Songs that invite chidren to move are great too. We like songs like “Animal Action” and “Hokey Pokey” for example. One of our favorite silly songs that combines movement, body parts and lots of fun is “Pig on the head”
Games like Follow the Leader, Simon Says, Green Light – Red Light are all great for practicing motor and cognitive skills and a great way to reinforce body parts and what they can do. In follow the leader for example, toddlers can imitate marching, walking, jumping and as they get older they start mastering these skills. Recently at playgroup my 2 year old daughter and her best friend (also 2 years old) both realized they could both jump and they jumped and jumped and then jumped some more showing each other and totally thrilled to have mastered this skill!
Great for all ages, art offers many opportunities to explore the body. One idea are to make self portraits. This is a wonderful way to explore self concept and body awareness. Tracing the child’s outline on a very large piece of paper and then adding all the details with markers and crayons is another very fun and exploratory activity. Another way to incorporate art and body awareness is using different body parts to paint, like using toes instead of hands! Ok its messy but loads of fun and a great learning experience.
There are so many books that talk about the body and help children learn about what they can do. This past week we read Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson. It is a wonderful story to talk about how we come in different shapes and sizes, how we may or may not look like members of our family. Another really fun book is Head to Toe by Eric Carle, where animals do different things like bending necks, kneeling down, standing on one leg and I especially like the message throughout the books that says “I CAN DO IT!”
Yoga games and poses are a great way for children to learn about their bodies and what they can do. From moving into silly poses to learning how to take long deep breaths, Yoga can calm, center and help children of all ages to focus, learn about their bodies as well become confident in their physical abilities.
One of our favorite calming yoga games is Big Rock, Little Rock:
To play, invite your child to kneel down next to you, and place your bottom over your feet. This is the basic rock pose. Next bring your head down in front of your knees, trying to rest your forehead on the ground. As rocks, invite your child to think of herself as a quiet rock and take a few breaths. Next, move your hands under your forehead and be very still, you can quietly say “we are quiet rocks, we feel the earth”. Finally move your hands towards your feet so your arms rest along your sides and your hands by your feet – invite your child to imagine she is a rock or a crystal – be still, be silent, breathe. If your child enjoys the quiet game, invite her to think about being a rock that is floating in a river, being light then being heavy like a big boulder.
This exercise is wonderful for grounding, centering and learning to be still. One variation that is lovely is to invite a toddler to become a rock in mommy’s lap!
For more yoga games you can see this post: Four Yoga Games for Toddlers and Preschoolers that I wrote for Elephant Journal.
Learning about the body happens quite naturally for children in day to day activities, and observation, but it can be fun to use activities, books and yoga exercises, art and more to take a moment and highlight the amazing things we can do!
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Visit Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Does Your Daughter Feel Beautiful – DeAnna L’am of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women and Girls writes about how Moms can model self acceptance and a strong body image for their daughters.
- 6 Ways for Children to Learn about Their Body – Ariadne is sharing calming yoga games, art activities and other wonderful ways for children to learn about their body over at the Positive Parenting Connection. You can also find more peaceful, positive parenting ideas and resources on the Positive Parenting Connection community Facebook page.