Despite our best efforts to get our kids to move their bodies, sometimes they need to be inspired by someone (or something) other than us. That’s where books come in. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of inspiring books—from rhyming dances for preschoolers to female empowerment for teens—to encourage kids to get out of their comfort zone, try something new, and move their bodies in a way that feels good to them. Check out these books next time your kids need a little movement inspiration.
Toddlers and preschoolers (ages 0 to 4)
This animal dance and guessing game book will be hugely popular with the two-to-three year-old set in your household. The song (which is all about shaking and grooving) is both catchy and easy for little ones to remember. A major bonus: it’s sung by Fred Penner (the book comes with a CD). Kiddos will love dancing to the music and guessing which animal is coming up next.
All hail Sandra Boynton, the queen of creating board books for toddlers and keeping them engaged and happy at story time. Moo, Baa, La La La and Snuggle Puppy featured majorly in our household bedtime routines for so many years. (To be honest, the rhymes were so catchy they’re still stuck in my head years later). Barnyard Dance is no exception, and it really motivates movement for my three-year-old. With lines like “Bounce with the bunny, strut with the duck, spin with the chickens now—CLUCK, CLUCK, CLUCK,” we are up and dancing around our living room in no time (and inevitably end up laughing while imitating animals for some sweet connection time).
With two older siblings, I thought my youngest would take to her balance bike quickly. Instead, she was nervous and couldn’t quite get the hang of it. I credit this book for making it much more exciting for her and getting her motivated to give it another try. Another beautiful thing about this book is how enjoyable it is for parents. It features so many different types of bikes—and the diversity of those riding them—and is overall just a pleasure to look at and read.
Grade-schoolers (ages 5 to 10)
Bree’s greatest fear is swimming. But on the first day at her new middle school, she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule: swim 101. Kids will love this graphic novel and relate to Bree, who learns to face her fears and dive in. Grab your bathing suits and get ready to go swimming, because your kids will want to hit the pool. Either that or they’ll be inspired to keep working on something that’s been challenging for them, whether it’s riding a two-wheeler, joining a team sport, or jumping off the diving board.
Full of fun projects you can do with your kids outdoors (think building a simple brush shelter or using a reflective surface to start a fire), this book is sure to motivate your kids to go outside and try something new. Written by a search-and-rescue professional and lifelong camper, this survival guide will also teach practical advice for when you’re lost in the wild: how to signal for help, find water and food, deal with dangerous animals, and navigate your way through the woods.
As they thumb through this book, kids will immediately be inspired to head outdoors and try something fun (think seasonal crafts and science projects, like making a cloud or a mandala). The beautiful pictures will inspire parents too, without having to check your Pinterest board.
Tweens and teens (ages 10+)
Throughout history, women have had to fight for the right to compete in sports. This book is a beautiful exploration of women who’ve fought for their rights—and paved the way for future generations of girls to find joy through sports. From diver and swimmer Aileen Riggin to skydiver Tiny Broadwick, prepare to be inspired by the amazing feats of incredible female athletes.
In these gorgeous books, the pictures provide half the inspiration tweens and teens (and honestly, adults!) will need to get outside and try a sport that challenges them. If you feel like your teen girls need some motivation to rekindle their love of sports or a chance to boost their self-esteem, these books will be just the ticket.
This stunning book is a great choice for both younger audiences and older ones, helping them learn more about accessibility and inclusivity in sport. It tells the story of Ludwig Guttmann, founder of the Paralympic Games. With plenty of photos to keep readers engaged, as well as interesting facts, surprising information, and athletes’ life stories, the whole family will find this to be a riveting read.