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Thoughtful Ways to Teach Your Children About Their Bodies
Thoughtful Ways to Teach Your Children About Their Bodies
Every time you move, your body and brain work together to send and receive signals and promote coordination. This same mind-body connection also occurs in children. From the moment they’re born, your little one begins learning about their body. What do they look like? How do certain sensations register in their body? How will they react?
As they grow, these observations will allow them to develop proper coordination, spatial relation, balance and motor skills. Eventually, these skills will help them understand who they are as a person and how to interact with the world around them. This level of body awareness will ultimately allow them to grow into healthy, conscious adults.
However, it’s up to you as a parent to teach your kids about their bodies from an early age. Luckily, there are plenty of simple, thoughtful ways to do just that.
Many parents tend to focus on helping their kids label emotions during early development. This process often involves pointing out physical reactions and connecting them to internal feelings. For example, you might observe another child’s balled-up fists and furrowed brow and ask your little one to identify whether they’re happy, sad or angry.
You can use this same exercise to connect bodily sensations with external or internal stimuli. Is your child sweating? Label this sensation as hot, uncomfortable or even wet. Then, work together to find ways to cool down. Helping your kids label these feelings will encourage them to listen and respond to their bodies instead of acting out.
Explore New Spaces
Exploring new spaces is another thoughtful and effective way to teach and apply body awareness. Think of everyday settings that might challenge your child’s proprioceptive skills. For example, maybe they need to work on respecting personal boundaries in the classroom or daycare center.
Visit these places and rediscover them together. Walk or dance around and try not to touch anything or crawl, climb and sit in different locations around the room. Allowing your kiddo time to examine the space will help them develop a motor map of their surroundings so they can navigate it more easily in real life.
Slip Into Body Socks
Sometimes, young children have difficulty understanding where their bodies are in space, especially in relation to people and objects. This disassociation can cause them to bump into things or behave awkwardly. In this case, slipping into a body sock will help them explore how to move in comparison to everything else around them.
As soon as your little one slips into the sock, lycra spandex material will provide deep pressure and proprioceptive input to their muscles and joints. This sensory feedback helps them ground down and focus on sensations to better determine where they are in space. Make good use of this learning tool by practicing yoga or dancing around the house before finally slipping out of the stretchy material.
Verbal cues and mimic play are go-to’s for anyone hoping to boost kids’ self-awareness because they involve simple actions and reactions. Have your child be your shadow and mimic everything you do for a few minutes. Older kids might even enjoy watching and imitating your actual shadow, so don’t hesitate to take this activity outside.
Mirror games like Simon Says are also effective tools for teaching your children about their bodies. Take turns shouting cues and invite their friends over to test their listening skills, awareness and coordination.
Cook or Bake Together
Provide opportunities for your child to sharpen their fine motor, spatial recognition and proprioceptive skills with activities like cooking and baking. While your five-year-old might not be ready to handle knives, they’re likely capable of wielding a whisk or rolling pin. These utensils will help them figure out how much force to use when holding, pushing, pulling, stirring and lifting different objects.
Of course, your kid probably won’t know how to bake a cake or make lasagna from scratch, so they’ll have to respond to verbal instructions and your nonverbal directions. Do they need to combine three ingredients? Should they use their hands or a spoon to mix them? Pointing out hot surfaces, washing your hands and even taste-testing your creations will also encourage body awareness.
Make Time for Downtime
Boredom might not be dangerous or incredibly distressing, but it is often dull, especially for young kids who live by a calendar or schedule. Yet, downtime provides the opportunity for kids to recognize their emotions and self-regulate. Moreover, it allows them to use their creativity and imagination to solve problems, learn new skills and test their physical abilities, which can certainly teach body awareness.
Therefore, it’s crucial that parents schedule downtime for their kids. Provide a safe space and toys or materials that encourage open-ended play. Then, let them complain about their boredom until it spurs them to action. Maybe your little one will even stumble upon a new passion or develop an exciting hobby in the process.
To Each Their Own
Teaching your kids about their bodies doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be a source of fun for the whole family. However, the most effective teaching moments often present themselves during age-appropriate activities your children truly enjoy.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you choose environments and exercises that suit their learning style, interests and needs. Only then will they be able to fully engage themselves and come to understand their bodies on a deeper level.