Children as young as three need to be taught positive body image

Posted in Family Health.

Raising girls in today’s climate can be a bit intimidating. How do you counter all the messages they get about their bodies from social media?

Where do we begin?

Pretty Foundation founder Merissa Forsyth recently spoke to Feed Play Love host Shevonne Hunt about how children as young as five are thinking about dieting, and what parents, educators and society can do to turn this worrying situation around. 

Listen to Merissa Forsyth on Feed Play Love:  

“Early education is where the foundations are laid for body image,” Merissa explains.

By the time children are tweens or even teenagers, attitudes to their own and others’ bodies have been developing for over a decade. That’s not to say they can’t be changed, but we can start this important work much earlier, Merissa says.

The sooner the better

And while some might think it’s an overreaction to start promoting positive body image and self-acceptance in preschool-aged children, statistics prove that’s simply not the case.

Indeed, the data tells us that the earlier we start teaching kids to appreciate and accept their bodies, the better.

“Research has found that 34 percent of five-year-old girls intend to diet,” Merissa says. “There’s another percentage of four-year-olds who are aware of what their body looks like.”

Merissa notes that attitudes to appearance are being established much earlier than once thought. She says that kids are constantly exposed to a certain type of beauty and body shape from a very early age, via their peers, via their family members, even via books and toys.

“These subtle messages are coming across,” Merissa explains. “They’re picking these things up and they are starting to learn at that stage what it is that they are valued for and what they want to look like and be like.”

Positivity through storytelling

To make this early body positivity education message more age-befitting, Pretty Foundation have developed some story books and accompanying resources for parents and educators. They encourage early discussions about body image in age-appropriate ways through storytelling.

Merissa points out that the work the Pretty Foundation are doing will benefit everyone – not just girls. Their resources encourage acceptance of all bodies and discourage the objectification of female bodies and that’s brilliant news for kids now – and for future generations.

Find more great stories and expert advice in the Feed Play Love podcast. Available in Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. 


Get more babyology straight to your inbox