Your preschooler is so lovable that she may want to hug and touch anyone she comes into contact with. However, her playmates may start to have a problem with her frequent touchy-feely ways, as will some adults, particularly those poor souls who are not blessed with kids of their own. Children who are diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome will also have problems understanding the concept of personal space. Teaching boundaries to children through interactive play will make the lessons fun and engaging.
You can find a book that features characters that have problems understanding when it is right and wrong to touch others. For instance, the children’s book “Huggapotamus” by Steve Metzger features a hippo that makes his friends upset by always hugging them. Read the book to the child and discuss the feelings of the other animals and how the hippo was able to learn how to give his friends their personal space.
Role-playing games are helpful for children who have difficulties with personal space. Possible scenarios to play out with your child are waiting in line, sitting on the bus or asking to play with a toy when someone else is using it. If the preschooler gives the appropriate amount of space during the exercise, reward her. The reward could be a small token, such as stickers.
Visual cues can be helpful to children struggling with the ideas behind personal space. To help, ask the child to spin a circle with his hands outstretched. Tell him the space within the circle is his own personal space. Demonstrate your personal space by spinning in a circle in the same manner. Make a game out of it by having him guess how close he can get to you without entering your personal space. If he’s within the circle, he must try again until he guesses correctly. Rope can also be a handy tool to demonstrate how close a person can get to your child. A close inner circle can be made to show how close immediate family members can get to the child. A medium circle can be made out of rope for teachers, other family members and friends. The farthest circle away from the child is used to represent the space away from strangers.
A hula hoop is another tool to use for personal space lessons. For a game of tag, request that the children hold the hula hoop as they chase one another. Instead of tagging a child with their hands, children must bump their hoops against each other. If the players touch each other during game play, they are automatically out of the game.
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