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Schools & Child Care

Body Image Elementary School Curriculum

Body image and self-esteem begin to develop early in life and are heavily influenced by caregivers, peers and the social environment children grow up in. Individuals who have a healthy body image and self-esteem are more resilient to the daily stresses and challenges that they may face in life.

Negative body image and self-esteem can have serious effects on health. Left unrecognized, negative thought patterns and resulting behaviours can lead to conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety and eating disorders.

Body image refers to the way we feel about our physical bodies. 

  • Positive (healthy) body image:  a person feels comfortable, confident and happy with their body.
  • Negative (unhealthy) body image:  a person feels ashamed, embarrassed, self-conscious and unhappy with their body.

Self-esteem is closely tied to body image. It refers to how worthy and confident a person feels. It also refers to the level of self-respect a person has for himself or herself.

  • Positive (healthy) self-esteem:  a person feels confident in their abilities, has respect for themselves and is proud of who they are.
  • Negative (unhealthy) self-esteem:  a person feels worthless, is self-critical and has low confidence in their abilities.
Lesson Plans
  • NEDIC Beyond Images – Self-esteem and body image curriculum for Grades 4 through 8 to address critical media literacy, digital citizenship, body-based bullying, and more.
  • Media Smarts: Gender Stereotypes and Body Image – for student awareness of the body image, identity, gender stereotyping and the media’s role in perpetuating gender stereotypes.
  • Ophea: H&PE Curriculum Resources – for Grades 1 to 8 consistent with the 2015 H&PE Curriculum: Movement Competence & Active Living, and Healthy Living.

Curriculum Supports
  • TeachBodyImage - for teachers with resources, lessons and strategies to address body image issues facing children in Kindergarten to Grade 8.
  • The Student Body: Promoting Health at Sick Kids - teacher training module for Grades 4 to 6 to develop positive body image and reduce their risk for developing unhealthy eating behaviours.
  • Media Smarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy – teacher resources for all grade levels linking digital and media literacy to body image.
  • Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit – to help teach about healthy eating and physical activity and to encourage students to maintain and improve their health (Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada).
  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) –information and resources about eating disorders and weight preoccupation. Promotes healthy lifestyles as an alternative to dieting and the destructive cultural emphasis on appearance. Some French resources.
  • Dove Self-Esteem Project - resources for teachers aimed at 11-14 year olds that promote body confidence looking at the media’s influence on body image and self-esteem.
  • At My Best – is a free comprehensive, curriculum-supported program focusing on physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-being for JK to Grade 6.
  • Obesity Network (Rudd Centre) - a video demonstrating the nature and extent of weight bias at home and in school, to increase awareness about weight bias.

Additional Resources
How to Raise Kids with a Healthy Body Image.
Encouraging a Healthy Body Image.
Talking to Kids about Media and Body Image Tip Sheet.
Supporting Minds - An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health and Well-being.

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