Mental Health

Self-esteem and body image activities for children

Written by Aprajita Dixit
Published: September 12, 2022
A Counselling Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist who specialises in child's psychology and child's development. Double RCI licensed (MA Clinical Psy & ADCGC(RCI) and MPhil in Clinical Psychology(RCI)) & a gold medal winner with more than 5 years of work experience.

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Growing up we all go through various transformations in life. From our height increasing to our oratory skills becoming convincing, to playing our favourite sport and making it a confident hobby to pursuing it as a career; we shape and establish ourselves as strong individuals in society with an identity of our own. Learning one’s own worth and being assertive in their skin is what we aim to spread! 

The degree to which a person believes in his or her own value as well as how much they feel others respect them both contribute to their level of confidence is known as self-esteem. Since feeling good about oneself can affect one’s emotional health and how one may behave in a given situation, self-esteem is crucial. These emotions may alter as events in your life change, such as starting a new school, changing your friend circle, or even getting a sibling.

You can have positive self-esteem if you believe in, respect, and love yourself, or you can feel insecure and helpless.

A major component of self-esteem, especially during adolescence, is body image. It depends on how you feel about your appearance. Similar queries and worries about their bodies are common among teenagers. They give a lot of thought to their appearance, which seems to be changing constantly during adolescence. Everyone has an idea of how their body and appearance fit into what is normal, acceptable, or attractive to them. 

An adolescent’s overall self-image is heavily influenced by their body image. They are extremely sensitive to criticism, so much so that if they hear negative or unfavourable remarks about their looks, abilities, social appeal, ethnic features, or changes in their bodies associated with puberty, many of them start to lose self-esteem or confidence.

On March 26, 2012, J.A. O’Dea oversaw an exploratory study at the University of Sydney in NSW, Australia. The research mainly concentrated on self-esteem and body image in children and teenagers. It was found that body image and self-esteem support adolescents’ overall psychological health, encourage healthy eating patterns, and promote regular exercise. The outcomes of this exploratory study provide strong evidence of current research.

Regardless of who you are, it is common to struggle with body image, but there are things you can do to make yourself feel good.

  1. Ask children to write down three positive attributes they have and three positive traits they possess on a piece of paper or in a journal. These two things might be the same. Invite volunteers to share some of their writing samples. These details should be noted on a flipchart or whiteboard. Remind people that everyone has strengths and that these qualities help to define who we are as people. Another aspect of what makes the world interesting is the fact that we are all unique.
  2. Find out if anyone has ever been made fun of or picked on because of something that makes them different—or if someone else has been—for being different. What was that like? How did you handle the circumstance? How could you approach the situation differently today? Let there be minimal processing and no attempt at trying to solve any problems during this time of sharing. Don’t let it become an opportunity to ridicule or continue to tease the participants. Thank you to the young people who are able to share their thoughts. Recognize how hurtful it can be to be made to feel strange or different. Reiterate constructive suggestions or actions that have been made. If young people express concerns about current events, follow up privately with them to find out if they need more support or intervention.
  3. Ask the class to brainstorm ways that they can all improve their perceptions of their bodies and their own sense of self. Encourage them to be imaginative; they might have surprising and enjoyable ideas. The list could contain:
  • Spend time with people who help you feel good about yourself and treat you well.
  • Use positive affirmations such as “I am strong, self-confident, and capable.”
  • Keep a journal to help you see what areas in your life need attention.
  • Celebrate what you like about yourself and work towards changing things that you don’t like as much.
  • Remind yourself that you are unique, special, valued and important.
  • Be a part of a social gathering and participate in group activities.
  • Eat foods that are good for you and make you feel great, such as lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as nuts, avocados and olive oil.
  • Indulge in physical activities throughout the day to remain active.
  • Talk to a trusted family member or friend if you are feeling low.
  • Treat others with kindness and respect that all unique individuals deserve.

4. Another activity is a breakdown of 3-steps in total. Parents can introduce the concept of body image to start the conversation. The aim of this activity is to make kids learn how having a positive body image affects overall self-esteem. 

In step 2, kids may decide to share their insights from the above conversation with their parents.

In the final step, children can come up with a modern-day definition of beauty. The success of this activity lies in the fact that the kids can take cues from the discussion and ideas shared in the first 2 steps to create this modern image of beauty. This final activity is followed by a wrap-up discussion.

Through these exercises, kids will understand the concept of body image, along with how having a healthy body image contributes to overall self-esteem.

  • Kids will examine visual images to examine how the concept of “ideal beauty” has changed over the course of the 20th century.
  • Kids will examine their own positive traits and determine the five personal characteristics that most significantly influence their sense of style.
  • Kids will develop their own “image of beauty” after talking about how important it is to respect one’s own personal style. This “image of beauty” will value one’s intellectual, personal, spiritual, and physical qualities.

A person’s emotional attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of their own body are referred to as their “body image.” It’s a complicated emotional experience, according to experts.

What a person thinks about their appearance, how they feel about their body, height, weight, and shape, and how they sense and control their body as they move are all related to body image.

Positive body image, or satisfaction with one’s appearance, can range from negative body image, or dissatisfaction with one’s appearance.

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Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), eating disorders, and other conditions can all be exacerbated by having a poor body image. A person who has a positive body image knows that their sense of worth is not based on how they look.

Positivity about one’s appearance includes:

  • having a broad concept of beauty and accepting and appreciating one’s entire body, including how it looks and what it can do
  • having a solid perception of one’s body
  • being positive within

The body-positive movement seeks to alleviate the pressure that media messages place on people’s perceptions of their bodies. “Beauty is not a single image, but the active embodiment and celebration of the self,” according to The Body Positive organisation.

Some have questioned whether accepting a larger frame could discourage people from making healthy lifestyle choices. But body positivity is not just about how one looks or feels about their body. Control and assurance are important elements as well.

According to research, emphasising self-confidence and a positive body image may aid in reducing obesity and achieving broader health objectives.

Here are some suggestions that could make your child feel better about their appearance:

  • Be optimistic while having conversations with them. Instead of saying “Your arms look heavy,” say “Your arms are strong.”
  • Encourage your child to put on comfortable clothing that flatters their figure.
  • Do not let your kids evaluate themselves against others.
  • Teach them that beauty transcends mere physical appearance.
  • Inspire them to enjoy the things their body is capable of, like laughing, dancing, and creating.
  • Engage in active criticism of any media messages or depictions with your child.
  • Ask them to make a list of the 10 best qualities they possess.
  • Get them a massage or a haircut, or do something nice for their body.
  • Engage them in a hobby or let them do something else that makes them feel good about themselves instead of focusing on their body.
  • Aim for a healthy lifestyle, which may include following a balanced diet.

Encapsulating, the world is filled with various individuals who are uncertain, insecure and unsure of themselves. At some point, everyone is going through the trouble that their body appearance is not appropriate. Spread this message to all the young boys and girls going through their puberty having hormonal blasts – You are Beautiful, You are You. You make a Difference. After all, the greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.


A. (2021, September 29). Self-Esteem and Body Image Activities for Kids. Health Powered Kids.
Brazier, Y. (2020, October 12). What is body image? Medical News Today.
Javaid, Q. U. A., & Ajmal, A. (2019). The Impact of Body Image on Self-Esteem in Adolescents. Clinical and Counselling Psychology Review, 1(1), 44–54.
Kay, H. (2016, February 3). Body Image. Common Sense Education.
Santos, J. (2020, January 20). 15 Body Positivity Activities: Love Your Body Unconditionally. But First, Joy.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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