Improving Children’s Body Positivity Through School Gardening

Children's Body Image Canada

Body positivity, or the body confidence movement, promotes a positive view of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, gender, color, and physical abilities among other criteria. Advocates focus on the appreciation of the functionality and health of the human body, as opposed to assessment of its physiological appearance. While the social movement applies to Canadians of all ages, it is most needed in youth, especially as it relates to children who struggle with real or perceived obesity:

“Despite a rise in public awareness and zero-tolerance policies in many schools, weight-related bullying – particularly cyber bullying – is a common experience for many overweight kids, and can have a devastating impact on their emotional well-being. Obese children, especially those with low self-esteem and poor body image, are at a greater risk of being victims of bullying. A vicious cycle can then be set into motion, Weight-related bullying can lead to an increase in negative feelings including anxiety and symptoms of depression like irritability, sad mood, low energy and fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities. This can lead to emotional eating, which can then result in further weight gain, which may lead to increased bullying, which then starts the cycle all over again.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital

While it’s generally considered to be a purely social movement, we want to draw your attention to the descriptor regarding appreciation of the functionality and health of the human body. If this is the case (and it is) then to answer the query of how to improve children’s body image we must also look towards interventions beyond positive affirmations, With years of experience in spearheading and supporting school gardening programs across Canada, the Plant a Seed Foundation can tell you firsthand that young students experience a very real and sustainable boost in body image and self-esteem through involvement in school gardens. If Canada is truly committed to improving children’s body image, adding school gardening programs to curriculums is key. Here’s why!

Powerful Ways School Gardening Can Improve Children’s Body Image and Positivity

Promotes Healthy Eating Habits

It’s a given that children of all shapes, sizes, and abilities (etc.) are beautiful. However, all of the aforementioned positive affirmations in the world won’t matter if they have an unhealthy diet that compromises their functionality and health. School gardens not only provide food insecure kids with access to nutritious produce, it encourages them to want to eat better. Research shows that when children help grow fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat more produce and try new and nutritious varieties. Ultimately, healthy eating habits create healthier kids. This fact aligns with any legitimate initiative to promote positive body imagery in adolescence.

Promotes Childhood Self Esteem

When kids don’t have access to the same nutritious foods as peers who come from food secure homes, it can have a very detrimental impact on a self-esteem which can manifest as deeper mental and behavioral health insecurities later in life. But by gaining access to nutritious food that they themselves have helped grow, they develop pride and self-esteem. Studies have found that the act of gardening on its own can help improve self-esteem, reduce negative feelings, and ease depression.

Promotes Diversity and Inclusion

The body positivity movement also encourages people to embrace various capabilities and ethnicities. Childhood involvement in school gardens that foster an environment of accessibility and multi-ethnic diversity will lay the foundation for improved self-esteem along with enhanced appreciation and compassion for others. View more on How to Make a School Garden More Inclusive.

The Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation has big plans for the year ahead as we continue our work to promote healthy living for kids across Canada. Help us help the next generation by pledging your support too! View more on how you can get involved in the year ahead, and beyond.

Earth Day 2021 Livestreams

Our videos with Mark Cullen and Brian Minter

Growing Mindful Children

Our Video clip from the 2020 Celebration of Greath Health (9 min)


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