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Body Positivity: Helping Children Love and Appreciate Their Bodies

by Donna Rafanello
January/February 2022
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Article Link: http://exchangepress.com/article/body-positivity-helping-children-love-and-appreciate-their-bodies/5026308/

*Figure 1: Modeling Positive Body Image can be found in the pdf version of this article.


Three-year-old Mariah stands in the dramatic play area, sucking in her stomach as she looks at her reflection in the mirror.

“I’m fat,” she tells her teacher.

Raymond (4) cries when his classmates tease him at the lunch table for taking two helpings of tator tots, reminding him, “That’s why you can’t run fast!”

Disturbing? Yes. Surprising? Not really. 

We already know that children pick up on societal messages starting at a very young age, absorbing messages from family members, teachers, social media, television, and movies. Diane Levin has led the way in this area with her books, including “Sexy So Soon” (2009, with Jean Kilbourne), “The War Play Dilemma” (2005, with Nancy Carlsson-Page), “Teaching Young Children in Violent Times” (2003), and “Remote Control Childhood” (1998). Louise Derman-Sparks’ “Anti-Bias Curriculum” (1989) and follow-up “Anti-Bias Education” (2020) teach us that children, like adults, “actively construct a sense of self, a combination of social identities and individual, personal identities (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2020). They continue:

“Social identities are both externally imposed and internally constructed … created and defined by the society in which people live … In addition, societal attitudes toward physical ...

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