Reading is often a sedentary pursuit, but not when it comes to these health and fitness books for children. Through instruction, inspiration, or both, they encourage kids to move their bodies and enjoy sports, fitness, and healthy foods. The titles below are suitable for toddlers, preschoolers, and beginning readers up to about 8 years old.
Knopf Books for Young Readers
If the collage illustrations by Marc Brown don't charm you, the fun rhyming text by Lindsey Craig surely will. And little kids will love guessing just whose dancing feet they are seeing (turn the pages to find out).
Ernestine has a list of activities as long as her name, but what she wants most is an afternoon at the park. This picture book by Linda Ravin Lodding doesn't directly extol the virtues of exercise. Instead, it promotes the joys of unstructured, free play.
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Get kids into the kitchen with these fun recipes and activities, most of which feature healthful ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In this case, playing with your food is welcome!
Sally Jean is spunky and smart and a whiz on first two wheels, then three. This book celebrates the joys of bicycle riding, along with Sally Jean's resourcefulness and creativity when she outgrows her beloved bike, Flash.
Tenley Circle Press
Follow along with twins (and city dwellers) Annie and Veda as they grow their own veggies in a community garden. Author Justine Kenin, the twins' mom, shares their story, from planting to tending to harvesting to chowing down on the fruits of their labor.
For gardening how-tos and activities, see Sharon Lovejoy's classic Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots (compare prices).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
As the title suggests, this charmingly illustrated book of poetry reminds us that just being outside sparks both imagination and activity. In poems and pictures, children play with sticks, catch bugs, hide and seek, and more; look for both traditional games and make-believe inventions.
More than just encouragement to move, this book by Lizzy Rockwell offers a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology. As she explains how muscles, bones, and organs work together, illustrations (also by Rockwell) show kids enjoying active play.
For a look at food and nutrition in a similar style, see Rockwell's companion book, Good Enough to Eat (compare prices).
Stretch those limbs with this rhyming story from Doreen Cronin, author of Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type, Diary of a Worm, and other popular picture books. The book is a sequel, of sorts, of two previous titles starring the same sweet dog: Wiggle (compare prices) and Bounce (compare prices).
Respected yoga teacher Baron Baptiste wrote this book, which introduces kids to nine basic yoga poses by relating them to occupations ("gardener" yields "tree" pose, and so on). Illustrator Sophie Fatus shows, step by step, how to get into each pose. If your kids like yoga, and you have some knowledge of it yourself, check out Yoga Dogs by Daniel Borris (compare prices). It may also inspire you to try out some poses together!
Random House Children's Books
If your child loves Elmo (or other Sesame Street monsters), check out this cute board book by Constance Allen. Little ones can follow along as Elmo and friends try out different movements. They'll also learn the names of body parts as you read, stretch, and shake.