By CELA on 11 Sep, 2020

Children are growing up in a world where anxiety levels have increased, self-confidence has dropped and views on healthy body image have been distorted.

How can we inspire young children to have the confidence in themselves to be smart, strong and kind on their own terms and plant the seeds of valuing the things that are really important in life?

Author and award-winning teacher Renee Irving Lee tells us about her new book, Rosie Leads the Way, and shares how early educators can inspire young children to embrace their smart mind, strong body and beautiful heart.

By Renee Irving Lee

I don’t know about you, but life for me as a teenage girl meant putting on a Sportsgirl t-shirt, throwing on a pair of jeans and blow-drying my fringe into a wave and pulling the rest into a ponytail.

This process took me all of about 15 minutes.

rosie leads the wayNo make-up, no selfies, no eyelash extensions, no hair tutorials and definitely no social media. My friends and I would ride our bikes to the shopping centre, to the beach or to the local pool. The only way to make contact with each other was by calling the home phone or by actually visiting them in person. Life was extremely simple and almost care-free!

Now, let’s fast forward to today.

Today is a completely different story. Life is busier, more intense, more invasive, and more public.

Our children are living in a completely different world than we did, so it’s not surprising that anxiety levels have increased, self-confidence has dropped and views on healthy body image have been distorted.

As a mum of two girls, I had an overwhelming drive to change society’s unhealthy obsession for physical appearance and perfection at all costs, so I made the decision to write a picture book to redefine what it means to be beautiful.

To me, being beautiful is about who you are at the very core. Being beautiful is about self-acceptance, kindness, love, compassion, and being the best version of yourself. Being beautiful is all about who you are, NOT what you look like.

My new definition of beautiful and the underlying message in ‘Rosie Leads the Way’ became all about having a smart mind, a strong body, and a beautiful heart.

So, how can early childhood educators help children embrace their smart mindstrong bodybeautiful heart?

In order for children to have healthy self-esteem and a strong sense of identity, I think we should be empowering them to embrace their own ways of thinking. We should be supporting them in understanding that their bodies serve a purpose to keep them healthy and strong, and that kindness and empathy are admirable characteristics to have.

Due to the holistic nature of the Early Years Learning Framework, educators are already engaging children in valuable learning experiences that utilise their smart mindsstrong bodies, and beautiful hearts. These experiences, however, can be even more valuable when they are reaffirmed and strengthened through positive language in conversations and affirmations and shared with family.


The development of intelligence, language, emotions, and social skills are highly inter-related, so the language we choose to use with children in daily conversations has a significant impact on their overall development. There are many opportunities throughout the day for educators to reaffirm positive language while responding to the needs of children in their care. Some examples could include:

“I love how you used your smart mind to think of a solution to that problem”

“It’s rest-time now. Our strong bodies need time to recover from all the playing, running, jumping and swinging we did this morning”

“Wow, I really love how you used your beautiful heart to share the crayons with your friends”.


Affirmations or mindful mantras are a practical and effective way to support positive language. They can be used during circle time, at rest time, as a calming technique, or incorporated into breathing exercises. A powerful daily affirmation could include:

I have a smart mind.  I have a strong body. I have a beautiful heart.


I am smart. I am strong. I am kind. I am me.

Sharing positive key phrases with family

Parents and families play an important role in supporting their child’s education, so sharing key phrases like smart mindstrong body and beautiful heart are a wonderful way for children to continue the experience of positive language in their home environment. It also gives parents an opportunity to connect on a different level with their child, extend their knowledge, and support further learning.

For more activities or teacher notes that help children embrace their smart mindstrong body and beautiful heartplease visit Renee’s website.

Meet the author

Renee Irving Lee is passionate about writing children’s books that promote life-long learning, social inclusion and improve self-esteem. She has always loved working with children, so writing for children has been a natural progression from her work as a teacher and educational freelance writer.

Her diverse background in education extends to teaching primary school-aged children, young adults, and children with special needs. Renee was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year Award by TAFE Queensland for her work as a dynamic, student-focused teacher who is highly respected for her skills, intellect and dedication. Renee was also inducted into the International Golden Key Honour Society while studying for her Bachelor of Education (Special Education) where she graduated with a Distinction.

Lisa Coutts is a Melbourne based illustrator who has illustrated many books and items mostly in the children’s market thanks to her.

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Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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