3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child

October 9th, 2012 by Dionna | 11 Comments
Posted in Adults, Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Children, Eclectic Learning, Healthy Living, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlers

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Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I stumbled across this picture of and quote by Kate Winslet while scrolling through Facebook, and it resonated with me:

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia, because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”

It is true for me, too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of my female friends or family members say that they love their bodies.

How sad, when we spend so much damned time taking care of our bodies, working to “improve” them, clothing and decorating them, and growing and nourishing babies with them.

I’ve heard plenty of women griping about their bodies (myself included), but not celebrating them.1

And I do not want the same thing for my daughter. Or for my son, for that matter. I want my children to love themselves inside and out. I also want them to be able to appreciate the bodies and humanness of others, regardless of size, shape, color, etc.

In researching something to share for this Carnival, I started a Pinterest board on instilling a healthy self-image in children. I invite you to check it out and see if any of the links are helpful for you. Below are a few of my favorite ideas, and a self-affirmation image that I created for this post.2

3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child

1. Explore the history of body ideals.

Take some time to learn about how body ideals change over time and across cultures.3 Here are some links to get you started:

Beauty Around the World

Beauty Ideals around the World

The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls

The Female Body in Mass Media: What the Research Says

Olympic Bodies: They Just Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

The World Has Curves — Countries Where Beauty Isn’t Stick-Thin

Talk about other ways bodies can be beautiful. What would the world look like if our culture valued bodies with bright colors, or incredibly unique hair styles?

2. Make positive affirmations routine.

Love your children just the way they are, and tell them you do. Put special emphasis on their innate qualities, but also tell them they are beautiful. Let them see and hear you being proud of your own body and self. As Kate Wicker advised, “help your children to learn to appreciate the diversity of the human race and that beauty is something we all possess. When we start seeing all people through a lens of love, we will see them as nothing less than lovely.”4 Start at home – love each other unconditionally. Here are some affirmations you might like:5

I love you just the way you are.

I love myself for who I am.

We feel good when we make healthy choices.

I can see beauty in everyone I meet.

Tape your affirmations onto mirrors, doors, dining room chairs. If you and your children are feeling so inspired, incorporate affirmations into artwork to display.

Let your kids come up with affirmations, too. Share them here, if you remember!

3. Create self-image collages.

I love this idea from Reviewed by Rach entitled Self-Image Awareness. She created a collage using photos of her daughter, and she added several descriptive words her daughter chose (“funny, smart, strong”).

But you don’t need to create anything as fancy as Rachel’s. Simply find a photo of your child or have her draw herself. Ask her to describe herself positively. Write her words around her picture, or use letters cut from magazines to make the words. Do the same for yourself, so your child can see that you are proud of your amazing attributes as well.

How do you help your children develop healthy self-images?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she’s perfect just the way she is.

  1. Well, I did write about how proud I was of myself for having such a healthy pregnancy with Ailia!
  2. Thank you for your GIMP expertise, hubby.
  3. For more awesome ideas on instilling a healthy self-image, see Help Your Kids Love Their Bodies.
  4. Raising Healthy Daughters
  5. Find many more at this LiveStrong article on self affirmations.

11 Responses to:
"3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child"

  1. Kate Wicker   KateWicker

    What a great and practical post, and my favorite affirmation to say to my four children is “I love you just the way you are.”

  2. I love these ideas! It’s difficult in our culture to feel positive about our bodies, but it is so important. Growing up, the women I knew constantly complained about the way they looked.
    My mother was one of the most confident women I knew, she didn’t diet, exercise or even wear make up to try and fit into a standard she knew she would not measure up to, but she would often justify the way she looked. “I look good for having had five kids.” or “I have big bones, so what?”
    I found myself doing this also, making excuses for my appearance, which is as bad as putting myself down, I think.

  3. Shannon @ GrowingSlower   growingslower

    I love the idea of learning about the definition of beautiful across different cultures and through history. It helps us see that these definitions are really just arbitrary and should not define who we are. I bet this exercise would be just as beneficial for we mamas as it is our kids.

  4. Kat

    Great ideas Dionna! My daughter loves to draw herself and then I talk to her about what she sees. It’s a great exercise to get her to think about herself and in a positive space. I am going to try the collage with pictures, I think she (and my son too) would love that!

  5. teresa   momgrooves

    All brilliant ideas!! I’m trying to figure out how to tag this post so I know where it is when I need it.
    The affirmations are perfect for us right now, and the collages.
    I love the beauty throughout history and around the world links too. Right now we just make sure our 5 year old daughter is exposed to them with no comment. She has no idea there are Ideals in society yet, so we’re not telling her. But the day will come…
    Thank you. I love these posts.
    Love the Pin board too.

  6. Marybeth   Rainbowsouffle

    So much truth to that. I don’t know that I ever heard my mother celebrating her body. This also reminded me of a book we own about bodies and how they work- it features lots of different people of different abilities and shapes and colors- my girl LOVES sitting and looking at all the differences between people and seeing how we work inside and out.

  7. I love these ideas! The links to the history of body ideals are fascinating, and I’m definitely going to do a body image collage with my girls! I love the affirmations, and the suggestion to tell your children all the innate things you love about them AND that they’re beautiful. I feel like sometimes people are so worried about emphasising the positive innate characteristics vs. physical characteristics, or about not praising their kids that they’re afraid to tell them that they are beautiful… but I think everyone likes to hear they’re beautiful :)

  8. I love the idea of using historical images and ideals to help children gain perspective. We have a book of images from around the world of breastfeeding and for something my daughter is so accustomed to seeing I was surprised by how much conversation this book generated. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I’ve been specifically trying to remember telling my kids I love them and that they’re awesome, in just random moments, not tied to anything in particular. I love your affirmation design, too — pretty!

  10. Momma Jorje   mommajorje

    Affirmations have always felt awkward to me, but thank you so much for #1 & #3! Think I may get started on those right away with my teenager!

  11. Melinda @ Mom on the Make   momonthemake

    I love this post. With two daughters, ages 11 and 9, I always try to promote having a positive, healthy view of themselves. I love the collage idea. So fun! I also make a point to never talk about losing weight or wanting a part of my body to look differently. We just discuss healthy exercise ideas and eating tips. So far, so good.

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