3 Strategies for Teaching Kids About Personal Space
Little kids spend a lot of time cuddling, hugging, kissing, and sitting on laps. They love to smother their parents and siblings with love, and they enjoy being in close proximity to others–sometimes even when those “others” are attempting to do personal things, like taking a shower!
But then they get a little older, and suddenly the rules change.
Not all kids like to be hugged and touched by other kids, and not all teachers give hugs at the end of the day. And then there are strangers to think about.
As kids grow, they have to learn about personal space. This can be a confusing concept for kids who are accustomed to showing a lot of affection and holding hands at all times. They need guidance in order to understand what it means to maintain appropriate physical boundaries.
3 Strategies for Teaching Kids About Personal Space:
Identify safe spaces
It's difficult to explain the concept of personal space when kids feel like they don't have any space of their own. As parents, we constantly encourage young children to share. From toys to books and even clothes, we want kids to learn the art of generosity. But how often do we stop and consider providing a little personal space?
Even little ones need their own place to keep their favorite things. Whether it's a toy box, a closet, or even just a few bins to keep their own toys, they need to know that their belongings are safe from siblings when in that space.
Kids also need to know that they have a right to privacy. As kids grow, it helps to have a closed-door policy when using the bathroom or getting dressed. This helps young children understand the importance of personal boundaries and teaches them to respect those boundaries for others.
Use visual cues
Talking is one thing, but if you want young children to really internalize these boundaries, it helps to provide visuals. Visual cues stay with children long after the lesson is over. Visual cues help kids make sense of the world around them.
For toddlers and preschoolers, stretching their arms out wide and looking from side to side is a great way to show them how much space they should give friends when walking or playing. While some kids don't mind sitting close, others are bothered by touch.
Hula hoops make another great lesson in personal space. When you stand inside a hula hoop and hold it up, it provides the perfect example of an appropriate amount of space to give others. Give a group of kids hula hoops and ask them to play hula hoop bumper cars–they will quickly learn how much space they need to allow!
Little kids love to read, and picture books provide opportunities to discuss social skills. Slow down when you read to your child. Look at the pictures and talk about space between the people, animals, or cars in the story. Ask your child to identify appropriate and inappropriate personal boundaries in the story. Talk about how the characters might feel if someone is too close and what they can do to allow for more space.
Have your children struggled with understanding personal space?