Umbrella Therapies

Learning to read our bodies’ language

Children learn to read– sometimes even before formal schooling. Children learn their ABC . They might learn their phonemes, and learn to refer to curly cats and kicking kings. 

This way, when reception class beckons, they can read instructions and access the curriculum. But how many children learn to read their bodies and access the messages portrayed this way.

As a Play Therapist, I work with children. I have a private practice but I also work in schools. And in most of the schools I have been, there is a room for the pupils who need extra input for reasons emotional or behavioural. In this room there is usually a poster which depicts ‘Feelings’. Which asks How are you feeling? Generally, this poster is illustrated with faces and expressions. 

Faces. I think of ‘making faces’… or ‘putting on’ a sad face. The way we might smile and answer I’m fine, even if we’re not.

But our bodies, in their wisdom, express. They give form to messages that come from a deeper place within.

What if children were invited to tap into this fountain of knowledge. To listen to their own pulse, the rhythm of their heartbeat; to the messages, the language–or dialect, rather–unique to Self.

Body Language. When we learn, 70% is through what we see.

It makes sense. From infancy, we learn through the signals we pick up from our carer’s bodies. For better or for worse: the well cared for infant thrives in the attention of the carer, who leans towards the baby with interest; not so for the infant whose carer turns away, or leans in with hostile intent.

The carer who puts words to bodily feelings helps the infant over time to realise that ‘the way I feel’ is called ‘hungry’ (and that food will soon follow!). Soon the toddler will learn to use this word to communicate their bodily state, instead of using the same code (crying) for being hungry, tired or hurt.

So far so good.

And then, many shoe sizes later, we ask

“Hi, how are you?” and the answer comes quickly: “Fine” or  “I’m good”  or “OK”.


How do we know?

We go to dentists for ‘check ups’…we go to the GP for a ‘check up’ but how often do we ‘check in’ with our own bodies.

The more we, as therapists, educators, parents do this, the more we can bring this consciousness to our clients, pupils, children.

What is your heartbeat telling you… what messages are your feet and the 7000 nerve endings sending you…

Can you sense every toe on your foot?

It can be a grounding exercise to just ‘sense your feet’ for twenty seconds… go ahead, try it.

I want to extend the invitation: next time you sense a body message, in yourself or see it in the child(ren) you work (or live) with, work with that. Sense. Listen. Feel. 

Back to the emojis on the poster. Or the phone. They are fun. But they don’t communicate the real feelings. For that, you can’t use a smartphone. You need to tune out of the apps and tune into the unique language of your body. This way, as we grow up and older, we will ‘keep in touch’. We will stay fluent in the dialect of our own bodies.



Petro-Nelise Sollé

Play Therapist and somatic educator (Nia Technique)