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Tips to help children in a world that is critical of body size


  1. Create an environment where children learn to feel good about themselves.
    • Help children recognize what they are good at and make opportunities for them to develop these skills and talents.
    • Introduce children to different hobbies, sports, neighborhood and community activities, and the arts.
    • Encourage children to pursue what they enjoy and what makes them feel good about themselves.

  3. Help children learn how to deal with teasing and bullying.
    • Teach children strategies to avoid reacting to unkind words and actions.
    • Role play with children and practice how they can use the strategies.
    • Talk about calmly walking away from peer provocations.
    • Help children develop positive I-messages: "I'm going to ignore these words because I know they are not true. I'm a good kid, I'm good at swimming, social studies, and writing letters to my cousins, and I have a best friend, Alicia, who likes me just the way I am."

  5. Set and maintain limits on the amount of time that children spend watching television and movies, and playing video and computer games.
    • Limit screen time, outside of homework, to 2 hours or less per day.
    • Work together to select television shows and movies that everyone likes and that portray what is important to you.
    • Make watching television and movies a special activity, not a routine activity.
    • Keep the television turned off during meals and when no one is watching it.
    • Maintain television-free bedrooms.

  7. Keep track of the visual media that children see.
    • Limit the number of fashion, glamour, and muscle building magazines that come into your home.
    • When children see images of female and male bodies that are unusually thin or overly muscular, talk about how media images are created with special techniques.
    • Explain that different kinds of bodies have different strengths.
    • Help children recognize that taking care of their bodies allows them to do what they like to do.


  8. Give children the experiences needed to enjoy healthy foods and beverages.
    • Plant a garden and teach children about where fruits and vegetables really come from.
    • Teach children the basics of food preparation.
    • Involve children with menu planning.
    • Avoid soda and sugary beverages.
    • Munch on fruits and vegetables between meals instead of fatty, sugary, and salty snacks.


  9. Show children what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
    • Purchase mostly healthy foods and beverages.
    • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
    • Plan regular meals and snacks.
    • Enjoy physical activity and active play every day.
    • Avoid dieting and withholding food for punishment.
    • Eat when hungry and stop eating when full.
    • Make mealtimes pleasant and relaxed.



Sara Gable, Ph.D., state specialist & associate professor, Human Development & Family Studies, Human Environmental Sciences Extension, University of Missouri

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., former nutritional sciences specialist, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri

Vera Massey, nutrition and health education specialist, Central Missouri Region, University of Missouri Extension



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Last Updated 02/22/2010