Why I Built This Kit
My two-year-old is intrigued with the human body, his own body and everyone else’s. And I am constantly amazed by the ways he explores what his body is capable of: he loves to see how high he can jump, how many times he can somersault, what sorts of pillows and balls he can tumble over, how far he can stick out his tongue, how fast he can run, what crazy positions he can take on (the seemingly impossible flexibility of toddlers astounds me). He is also in a labeling stage: “What’s this?” is a question I am constantly answering throughout our day, and often times those questions include body parts. Soon we will be into the “Why’s” I’m sure. This kit is an assembly of books and other resources to help promote a young child’s innate curiosity about the body and its abilities and build a solid foundation from which to expand into more advanced science down the road.
Spark Their Interest
Children take interest in the human body bodies just as soon as they gain some control over their own bodies—grabbing their hands and feet, looking at themselves in the mirror, asking adults to open their mouths and stick out their tongues, trying to get involved in diaper changes, etc. Encourage their observations and help prep them for learning more advanced science later on by having some simple discussions during everyday activities. For example:
- As your child brushes their teeth, suggest that they look closely at their mouths in the mirror. How many teeth do they have? Do the teeth all look the same? How many eyes do they have? Ears? Noses? Mouths? Etc.
- Talk about similarities and differences in appearance. Do all members of your family have the same color hair? Eyes? Is someone’s hair curly and someone’s smooth? Is your skin color all alike or is it different? Is someone taller than someone else? Branch the discussion out to your neighborhood at large.
- Heartbeats – Help your child feel their own heartbeat. Start by asking them to put their hand on their chest over their heart. They may or may not be able to feel it right away. Then do some exercise together: jumping jacks, running laps, etc. Ask them to put their hand on their chest again immediately after this. Do they feel their heartbeat now? The next time your child has a check-up at the doctor, check with their doctor ahead of time to see if they might be able to listen with the stethoscope to their heartbeat, too.
- What does what – As you go through your day talk about what parts of your body your child needs to use. What do they use to walk? To eat? To draw? To read a book? Etc. Don’t forget to include parts of the body that books might not cover as often (the neck, thumbs, tongue, chin, eyelashes, etc.)!
- Explore – There aren’t many books about the different internal systems within the human body designed for toddlers and preschoolers, which is reflected in the Storytime list below. But that doesn’t mean your little one won’t enjoy or learn from books designed for slightly older children. Even if the text is beyond them, kids will still be fascinated by different images and an “abridged” version of the text that you can help provide. So visit your library and don’t necessarily skip over books such as First Human Body Encyclopedia, which has some fabulous photographs and information!
- The Knee Book by Graham Tether, illus. by Sylvie WickstromAs described by the title, a book all about knees! With playful rhymes and silly pictures, this book will get little ones very excited about their knees. Check out other titles in this Bright & Early Books series such as The Ear Book, The Nose Book, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, etc.
- My Two Hands, My Two Feet by Rick Walton, illus. by Julia GortonFrom the moment of waking, hands are busy: stretching, washing, playing, and finally folding together in sleep. Then, readers flip the book over and, starting from the other side, follow two wiggly feet dancing, stomping, twirling, and finally lying still in sleep. Each upside-down section contains rhyming couplets in simple language, and the two halves are tied together in the middle with a double-page spread of the two little girls who are attached to those hands and feet lying down on a green background fast asleep. (School Library Journal)
- I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes! by Linda DavickA bubbly celebration of the human body. In upbeat, musical verse, children declare their love for their hair, their toes and everything in between. The text is funny, silly and sometimes irreverent…. Davick is careful to leave no body parts out of the raucous celebration…. Sharing this jolly, cheeky ode with little ones will produce some giggles while helping to instill an appreciation for the wondrous human body and all its necessary parts. (Kirkus Reviews)
- The Holes In Your Nose by Genichiro Yagyu, trans. by Amanda Mayer StinchecumA humorous approach to nostrils and their functions in humans and other animals. Check out other titles in this series as well such as The Soles of Your Feet.
- My Bodyworks: Songs about your bones, muscles, heart and more! by Jane Schoenberg with music by Steven Schoenberg, illus. by Cynthia FisherThis book and cd includes 12 songs all about the body, from bones to muscles to gas to breathing to hair. The lyrics are printed in the book accompanied by lovely illustrations, and the ending includes some basic diagrams and fun facts about the human body. What better way to learn about the body than to dance while doing it?!
- Dem Bones by Bob BarnerThe illustrated version of a favorite song offers terrific collages accompanying the lyrics, as well as blocks of information about each type of bone. A great book to grow with as you can stick just to the lyrics for a more simple story (and song and dance!) or dive deeper into the facts about the human skeleton!
- My Five Senses by Margaret MillerA simple explanation of the five senses illustrated by the big child-geared photographs that Miller is so well known for!
- Kevin's Big Book of the Five Senses by Liesbet SlegersA book about the senses with a fabulous combination of questions, labels, identifications, story, and big bold illustrations that toddlers will love.
* Pair these books with the Sid the Science Kid: I Sense website (see Watch, Listen, Learn section below)
- How Kids Grow by Jean Marzollo, photographed by Nancy SheehanA fabulous book to take kids through the basic development of babies through seven-year-olds. The photographs are sure to captivate their attention.
- Who Has What?: All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ BodiesThis much-needed title stands out for its comfortably familiar presentation of material adults sometime find difficult to share with young children. (Kirkus Reviews)
- Shades of People by Shelley Rotner, and Sheila M. KellyThis book is filled with wonderful photographs of happy, smiling, inquisitive, trusting, and adorable children—all with varying skin tones, hair colors and textures, and facial features. …The message is clear and to the point: "Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper. And, you can't tell what someone is like from the color of their skin." A good introduction to racial and ethnic diversity. (School Library Journal)
- Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney, illus. by Annette CableIn this delightful concept book, a girl gives readers a guided tour of her "amazing body," illustrated with colorful cartoon art. The child talks about the parts of the body that she can see, but mostly about those she can't. She describes the functions of her skin, bones, muscles, brain, blood, heart, lungs, and stomach in an engaging and accessible way. For example, when discussing muscles, the girl states that, "They stretch and shrink like rubber bands." She says that her heart is "like my own little engine." The book ends with the affirmation that while everyone's body is similar, each individual is unique. (School Library Journal)
- What’s Inside? My Body: A First Guide to the Wonders and Workings of the Human Body by Angela RoystonMy Body is an excellent elementary introduction to anatomy. Its simple text provides concise information while the photos and drawings offer much more. Skin, head, eyes, ears, chest, stomach, legs and arms, and hands are all included. (School Library Journal)
- Parts of the Human BodyDeveloped by a Montessori teacher, this app gives young children the opportunity to learn about body parts by clicking on different parts and hearing them pronounced, seeing them in writing, as well as matching puzzle pieces to a human body in two slightly different levels of difficulty. Simple, clear, and easy to use.
- My Body PartsThe photographs of young children and close-ups of the various human parts are what make this app very appealing to little ones. They can learn different body parts and how to pronounce them, and even practice writing them!
- Sid the Science Kid Read & PlaySid the Science Kid Read & Play is packed with stories and fun activities aimed at developing early science exploration. It features two story books, jokes, games, sing along music videos, coloring pages and more, optimized for the new ipad! (iTunes) Kids will learn about their five senses, as well as what germs are and how to avoid catching them!
- The Human BodyExplore a working model of the body. Every part is animated and interactive: the heart beats, guts gurgle, lungs breathe, the skin feels, and eyes see. Designed for kids ages 4+ to discover what we’re made of and how we work. (iTunes) I love the self-directed style of exploration and many levels of engagement in this app!
Watch, Listen, Learn
Know Your Body Parts from MagicBox Animation
This series of animated videos presents information about the human body with clear, simple narration in short (about two-minute long) videos. Some of the pictures or diagrams that show up include words that young children might not read or understand, but its designed so those images are supplementary and not necessary to understand the basics of each body part. A very useful series.
A great podcast that compiles Sesame Street videos about the body with both songs and furry monster friends. And here is another Sesame Street Body Parts cartoon!
A short video about the five senses and a matching game that asks little ones to match the description with one of several objects (Sid describes something as tasting sweet and feeling cold, and the right object to click on is a popsicle!).
Sense of Smell: Scent Twins
I love this idea for creating two sets of containers with different scents (cotton balls soaked in a particular scent) and having your child find its “scent twin” by using the sense of smell to match the containers.
Sense of Sound: Sound Balloons
Kids love balloons, and this is a fabulous way to explore the sense of sound! Fill balloons with items that make a variety of sounds such as dried beans, rice, small bells, etc. Have them guess what’s inside making what sound.
Whole Body: Life-sized Model
Have your child lay down on a long piece of paper, felt, or large, flat piece of cardboard and trace them. Then have your little one fill in the body with materials from around your home or other felt pieces if using felt – you might choose to make a skeleton, internal organs, or some mix of both. Or you could choose to have them draw or paint their look-alike body. If weather permits, you could also do this activity out on the driveway or sidewalk using sidewalk chalk!
Internal Organs: Stomach Collage
Talk about what the function of the stomach is and then make a stomach collage! Draw a basic outline of a stomach and then have your child cut out (or point for you to cut out) pictures of things they like to eat (or might imagine they’d like to eat) from magazines and glue them on!
Skeleton & Bones: Skeleton Collage
Use Q-tips and glue to make a skeleton collage on black paper. Make the skull out of paper, and your kiddo can draw the face, and the rest out of Q-tips. Have fun!
Whole Body: Yoga
Yoga is a fabulous way to make your toddler more aware of and in control of their body, and there are all sorts of resources out there now for doing yoga with very young children. It will also help your child release some energy, relax, and adopt a healthy lifestyle practice. Try this series of poses as a starting point!
Whole Body: Simon Says
Play Simon Says with body-oriented instructions: “Simon says touch your elbow. Simon says touch your ankle. Stand on one foot.” Etc. Your child will keep working on their gross motor skills while cementing the various parts of the body in their brain!
Body and Music: Sing a Song
Use songs such as “Dem Bones” (see Storytime links), “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Head and Shoulders Baby” or the “Hokey Pokey” to get your kiddo thinking about their body and moving their body simultaneously!
About Alexandra H.
Greetings from central Maine! Things you should know about me: I am the mother of an inquisitive, active toddler who keeps me on my toes. I work in a small, independent children’s bookstore where I get to help kids, teens, and their grown-ups find books that will keep them up reading all night long. Just kidding about that last part, they go to sleep eventually, I swear. Well, I don’t swear, but I assume. But matching people and books? My favorite way to play matchmaker! Before moving to Maine I worked as a historical researcher for American Girl, where I learned about everything from steamboats to wars to parrots. I am also a children’s book author myself, with my first picture book due to come out in 2015! When I’m not knee-deep in books or blocks or a sandbox, I bake a lot, avoid cleaning at all costs, and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. For the record, I would love to be a neat and orderly person, it just doesn’t seem to be my style. I’m working on it.