Body image in infants and young children

by Debra Cruz

Babies and young children seem to be naturally happy with their bodies. They love to shake their legs and play with their toes. They love to squirm and use their bodies to move. Once they are able to stand and walk, young children feel proud every time they do something on their own.

Parents help babies and young children feel good about their bodies by doing the following:

  • they caress and care for them with affection
  • they play so that children learn to move their body
  • play for children to use new skills
  • show them how proud they feel
  • they smile at them and praise them a lot

Body image in growing children

As children grow, they can create good feelings about their bodies. Sometimes this shows. Children are proud when you tell them how tall they will get. They smile in the mirror. They like the way they look with their favorite clothes or with their new haircut. They want you to see how fast they can run. Or see what they are capable of doing with a skateboard.

As children grow, they may compare themselves to other children. They want to feel good about how they look. They want to be able to do what other children do. When you compare yourself with others and feel good, your body image increases.

  • teach them about their body
  • help them take care of their body
  • tell them nice things about how they look
  • allow them to show you what they are capable of
  • show them that they are proud of what they are capable of
  • stay active with them
  • getting kids active every day

Body image at puberty and beyond

Boys’ bodies change when they go through puberty. The way you feel about your body may also change. Some children are eager to look older. Others feel embarrassed by the changes in their body. It may take a little time to get used to a body that looks and feels different.

Not all boys go through puberty at the same age. Some develop earlier. At first, they may feel weird. Or that they take pride in looking more mature. Some boys go through puberty later. Some have no problem with this, but others can’t wait to become like their friends.

It’s normal for girls to have a little extra fat when they go through puberty. But this makes some of them worry about their weight.

Tweens and teens may be very concerned about their appearance. Maybe they will try new styles. Perhaps they dress to fit in or to differentiate themselves.

They are probably very focused on what they don’t like the way they look. Boys will surely want to be more muscular. Girls may wish they were more or less curvy. Being so self-critical can hurt teens’ body image.