We teach children all sorts of ways to keep themselves safe. We tell them what to do if they encounter a wild animal, or shady stranger, or house fire. But body safety can sometimes be a difficult subject for parents to broach with their young children. They may feel challenged by knowing what words to use with their children, or how much information is too much. It’s also a little confusing that body safety is not one specific topic, but rather than umbrella term that can encompass boundaries, anatomy, consent, safety-planning, and so on. Anytime parents are experiencing difficulty with a certain topic of conversation, I love to recommend children’s books as a friendly way to start the discussion – and as a way to help the parents themselves learn the right language to use. You can view my previous posts recommending children’s books on divorce and loss.
In honor of April being both Child Abuse Prevention Month AND Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I thought this might be a sensible time to recommend books on body safety. No adult relishes the idea of talking about scary things with children, but kids aren’t born automatically knowing what to do if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. Discussing body safety is an important step in protecting them.
Because “body safety” can mean a number of things, different families may be seeking different “goals” from these types of books, and that’s okay. Some parents might be introducing the subject for the first time and may want something a bit more general and gentle, while others may be looking for something straightforward and comprehensive. As I was reading through the pile of books below, I considered what might be the 4 most likely goals that parents are after, and then identified which of these goals each book managed to meet.
Goals of Body Safety Books:
- Goal 1: Validates the experience of not wanting to be touched (including appropriate touches by safe people)
- Goal 2: Empowers children by giving them the words to use to reject unwanted touch
- Goal 3: Teaches children what to do if someone continues to cross boundaries after saying “no”
- Goal 4: Addresses “private parts”
And now, the children’s books on body safety, with information about their pros, cons, and goals. Clicking on each picture will lead you to the Amazon page for that book.
Your Body Belongs to You – Cornelia Spelman / Teri Weidner
Targeted Age Group: 3-5
Synopsis: This one addresses the reader in second person point of view. It validates that the reader might like to be touched sometimes, but not other times. Uses very gentle language.
Pro: Provides statement that children can use in order to politely and clearly reject touch
Con: Although the book is aimed at children ages 3-5, I think it’s more ideal for very young children (2-3), especially if it’s the first time on this subject. Parents of slightly older kids will likely feel that the language is too ambiguous.
Goals Met: 1, 2, 3, and 4
No Means No! – Jayneen Sanders / Cherie Zamazing
Targeted Age Group: 3-6
Synopsis: A little girl tells others no when she doesn’t want to hold hands, be hugged, etc. It empowers children to use their voices and say no, even to their own parents at bathtime.
Pro: Lists “discussion questions” in the back for parents who want to further discuss the subject with their children.
Con: Does not say what to do if another person violates their boundaries after they’ve already said no.
Goals Met: 1, 2
Miles is the Boss of His Body – Samantha Kurtzman-Counter and Abbie Schiller
Targeted Age Group: 4-7
Synopsis: Miles gets frustrated when his well-meaning family members keep hugging/tickling/touching him when he doesn’t want it. He stands up for himself, and receives support.
Pro: We see Miles’ family validate his experience and remind him he’s allowed to say no. The illustrations in this book are very unique, almost like a comic book.
Goals Met: 1, 2, 3
I Said No! – Zack and Kimberly King
Targeted Age Group: 4-8
Synopsis: Boy and his mom instruct the reader on what private parts are, and identifies safe and unsafe people and situations.
Pro: Very informative and includes pages at the back for the reader to draw and write on
Con: Gives MANY examples of unsafe situations, which is helpful, but could be overwhelming for younger children. Also, while it does a great job of discussing unwanted inappropriate/sexual touch, it doesn’t discuss what to do if the touch is appropriate and safe, but is still unwanted.
Goals Met: 2, 3, 4
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes – pro familia / Dagmar Geisler
Targeted Age Group: 3-6
Synopsis: About a girl who sometimes likes being touched, and other times does not. She provides advice for what to do in the latter situation.
Pro: Simple story, easy to follow
Con: Does not address private parts (which is a con only if you were looking for that)
Goals Met: 1, 2, 3
My Body! What I Say Goes! – Jayneen Sanders / Anna Hancock
Targeted Age Group: 3-7
Synopsis: Discusses feelings, including what it means to feel safe or unsafe. Provides direct explanation of private parts with correct anatomical terms.
Pro: Interactive, addresses reader and asks them to think of their own safe people, etc.
Con: Not really a “story,” which may fail to hold some kids’ attention
Goals Met: 1, 2, 3, 4
For the sake of having a lot of options, I wanted to include some additional books on this subject. I did not read these myself and cannot attest to their appropriateness or helpfulness:
My Body Belongs to Me – Jill Starishevsky
My Body is Private – Linda Girard
It’s My Body – Lory Freeman
The above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of what you spend without it costing you anything extra. I only recommend books that I honestly see value in, whether or not you purchase it through these links. If you’re uncomfortable using the affiliate links, you can visit http://www.amazon.com and type the book you’re searching for.