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Anatomy & Body Awareness Books for Kids (and their squeamish grown-ups)
First Talks About Body Boundaries
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101: Body Awareness For Kids
Starting to talk about Anatomy for Squeamish Parents
The single most effective way to protect our kids against sexual assault is to give them an accurate, honest way to talk with you before something happens.
If you’re still at the squeamish stage – no worries, let’s meet you where you’re at. More touchy subjects – like reproduction, sex for fun, and LGBTQ+ issues will be way easier if we start here. So for now, let’s start with anatomy.
Basic Anatomy For Squeamish Parents
When we refuse to talk about something, our kids pick up on that. Kids form their own opinions on the ‘wrongness’ of the things we won’t name.
When we refuse to acknowledge race, we create a stigma against people of color. When we refuse to label body parts what they are – kids pick up on that to. They form opinions on the way bodies ‘should’ be – which bodies are acceptable, and which bodies are ‘wrong.’
When we choose to protect the ‘innocence’ of kids – we’re forcing them into obliviousness. That’s puts our kids (and their future partners/victims) at risk.
Know that that there is a danger to reading only beginner books on anatomy without addressing sex, gender, and other hard topics.
Unfortunately none of these books include intersex or trans-inclusive language but* I’ve connected with Maris Wicks (author of Human Body Theater) and she’s eager to add inclusive language in the next edition of her book. Sometimes, all it takes is writing an email to an author and asking them to consider it!
*2021 Update: See below for my raving delight at the newest edition of The Bare Naked Book – which is explicitly both trans and intersex inclusive.
For those of you JUST starting out with a 1-2 year old, if you don’t want to go anywhere near discussions on genitals, these are the best (if problematic) beginner anatomy books. All of these are body-positive, but foster the idea of a gender binary, and erase the existence of trans, nonbinary, and intersex kids. These are very basic, mainstream books that feed into the myth of a gender binary and that genitals=gender.
My kids loved these, but they were just the beginning of our conversation. You are not allowed to stop here. I’ll be replacing these once I find more inclusive books on basic anatomy.
I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!, How The Body Works, Little Explorers: My Amazing Body (genitals mentioned), Human Body Theater (binary & gendered reproductive system discussed)
Body Awareness For Squeamish Parents
Once we have a basic understanding that fingers and toes exist and are a part of the meat bag that consists of ‘me,’ it’s time to learn how we use our bodies to interact with the outside world. Again – these are very safe, mild books that even the most squeamish conservative parent can read without flinching. Baby steps – we’re focusing on senses.
I’ll update this once we get more accurate and inclusive books. My kids loved these books to learn about body awareness, but none of these mention proprioception (there are more than 5 senses), or how folks with physical disabilities move through the world. Sigh.
Horns to toes & in between, Kevin’s Big Book of The Five Senses, Shake a Leg, The Busy Body Book
Anatomy For Inclusive Families
UPDATE! Annick Press sent me a free review copy of the latest edition of the Bare Naked Book – and I CAN DIE HAPPY AND RETIRE NOW.
While I had left the first edition out of this collection because it skewed thin, whiter, cis, and non-disabled, the latest edition is updated and fantastic. We’ve got a range of body sizes, ethnicities, races, disabilities, limb differences, gender ambiguous, and even externally intersex kids and folks who have had top surgery. YES! YES MORE PLEASE!
Got it? Don’t stop here. Kids need to understand that people come in all shapes and sizes – and all deserve respect, rights, and kindness.
Next Up: Inclusive Kids Books For Body Acceptance
Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Shake That Booty
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I haven’t been able to find any body books that actually *talk* about disability, but I was able to find a board book called My Body (by Jill McDonald) that features a child in a wheelchair in several illustrations. The kids at the last preschool I worked at loved that book; I brought in a few different body books from the library, and that one ended up being the most popular (possibly because I had already read them other books by Jill McDonald and they liked her illustration style).
Also, there’s a series of board books by Annie Kubler about the five senses, and the one about hearing features a child with a hearing aid. (Pretty much all of her books have casual disability representation in them.)