Children are naturally curious about their bodies. Very young children like to point to their nose, ears, and toes. They like to explore how their arms and legs move and how different parts of their bodies are connected. Older children like to be experts and to know real things about themselves. By being open to your child's questions and encouraging his own investigations, you will be helping him to feel comfortable with his physical body and teaching him how it all works together. To spark discussions and learning, try these tips.
- Provide crayons and markers that reflect skin tones of all shades (Crayola makes a nice variety). Can your child find a match? Talk about the many colors people are. Provide a mirror for self-study.
- Give your child supplies to play hospital. You can be the patient, with make-believe broken bones, sore muscles, or cut skin. Props can include a stethoscope, cot, bandages, toy syringes (without needles), and old shirts that can be worn as lab coats.
- Examine chicken bones after dinner. Take note of the different sizes and shapes of the bones. Direct your child's attention to the connective tissue joining the ribs.
- Look at a plastic skeleton. Point out that the skull is a bone, too, encasing and protecting the brain. Explain that bike helmets and other safety gear help protect our bones when we are riding bikes and scooters.
- Turn pipe cleaners into "bones" that children can twist together to make bendable bodies.
- Study an X-ray by taping it to a window. Create your own imitation X-ray by making a handprint on black construction paper with white tempera paint.
- Share pictures of internal organs, including hearts, stomachs, and lungs. Contrast the muscles we move voluntarily with those that work on their own, even as we sleep.
- Keep track of your child's growth. Have him stand barefoot against a wall and mark his height, along with the date. Never scrub this off — it's a great record.