Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes: Teaching Kids About the Human Body

Running a blog isn’t entirely easy. I’ve had a few people ask me how much time I spend on my blog on a daily basis, and I tell them this all the time if I don’t find the time to take a break I’ll be on here all day. Between writing up and editing my posts and networking, it’s a full-time job. As many of you know I was an Army Medic so it was my job to patch adults up. It’s entirely different however when it comes to teaching kids about the human body. How do you introduce and teach kids about the human body?

The human body is a fascinating specimen with many different parts, functions, and abilities, both seen and unseen. As children grow, teaching them about the human body can be both instructional and fun.

When teaching anyone about the human body (whether it is young children or medical students), there are two main ways to break it down: regionally or systemically. For example, you can either learn about the head and go over the brain, the four senses located on the head, and discuss hair, or you can learn about the central nervous system. The route you choose should match the age and learning abilities of the child you are teaching, as the body is quite complex.

Here are some suggestions for fun ways to teach children of all ages about the body.

Younger Children

For very young children, focus on helping them identify basic body parts such as :

  • head
  • finger
  • mouth
  • nose
  • eye
  • ear
  • hair
  • hand
  • foot
  • leg
  • arm
  • teeth

Simple games are a great way to help children learn to identify parts of the body. Such games include:

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Simon Says: This game can be adapted based on the child’s understanding. For example, the prompts may range from “touch your arm” to more specific directions such as “touch your right arm” to more complex statements like “touch your left arm to your stomach”, incorporating multiple body parts. Take turns, allowing your child to both do what Simon says and also tell you what to do.

You can also help children become more familiar with the body through activities.

  • Cut out a shape of a person, along with pictures from magazines of articles of clothing. Help the child “dress” the person and teach them where different clothes should go on the body. You can also use paper doll sets.
  • Write a list of body parts and put them in a hat. Have the child pick body parts from the hat and then let them draw a picture that matches what they picked out. Make it silly and put things such as “three arms”, “six eyes”, etc.

Older Children

Older children already have these basics in their knowledge bank, so give them activities that will help them learn more about the systems of the body, as well as more complex anatomy.

  • Buy a large piece of butcher paper and trace the outline of the child’s body to cut out. Have the child also cut out shapes of the body’s major organs. Then teach them where all the major organs go, while also teaching them their functions. You can also play this game simply by cutting out pieces of sticker paper and have the child place the sticker on their own body above the corresponding organ.
  • Use different colors of play dough to form the different parts of the brain while discussing which functions each part regulates.

When it comes to the heart, there are many activities you can do.

  • Teach the child how to take their pulse and then show them how it changes as they do more strenuous activity (like running and playing). Explain how this helps the body pump more blood and circulate more oxygen and nutrients the body needs to complete these activities.
  • Use water and a tennis ball with a hole drilled in the top to demonstrate how the heart fills with blood and then pumps it out to the rest of the body.
  • Use an empty paper towel roll as a rough stethoscope and have the child listen to their heartbeat (or yours!). Teach them how the sound they hear is actually the blood rushing in and out of the heart.

Fun Facts for Kids

As you teach your child about their body and all of the amazing things it can do, don’t forget to include some fun facts along the way.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • There are 100,00 miles of blood vessels in an adult human body.
  • The strongest muscle in the human body is the masseter (jaw muscle).
  • The ears and nose never stop growing.
  • Just as we all have unique fingerprints, we also have unique tongue prints.
  • The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colors.
  • Your heartbeat changes and mimics the music you hear.
  • Your bones are composed of 30% water.
  • The gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract) is a 30-foot tube running from your mouth to your anus.
  • One step requires the use of up to 200 muscles.

With so much information to learn about the human body, the key is to start with the basics. As you find helpful infographics, such as this one, you can tailor it to the learning level of your child and use it to continue to build upon their knowledge as time goes on. Just remember that learning about the body can be instructive, interactive, and fun!

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