Activity: Teaching Personal Space

When you put a group of children together for long amounts of time, there are bound to be ups and downs. A positive? The children are together all day and form strong bonds, build friendships, and work together. A negative? The children are together all day and have strong ideas, claim ownership, and have individual needs.

All of these things are going on all day alongside the physical, cognitive, and self-help skills we expect children to be working on. It must be exhausting to be young!

For many of us, exhaustion easily turns to frustration. It is no different for children. Unfortunately, children tend to be hurtful when frustrated. One way to help reduce hitting and pushing is to teach personal space.

This is the lesson we did today to practice personal space.

- painters tape
- toy cars (one for each child)

1) Make child size spaces on the floor using the painters tape. The squares I made are approximately 3'x4'.

2) Invite children to the space for an activity. Ask that they each sit in their own square. My kiddos helped each other to understand that they couldn't be sharing a space with anyone. I helped the children who were having a more difficult time understanding the direction.

3) We defined "personal space" and the feelings that go along with personal space. I referred to our emotions chart as a visual for the feelings that go along with being comfortable, being upset, and staying calm. We talked about times when it is okay that someone comes into your personal space (high fives, hugs, help from a friend/grown up).

4) Give each child a toy car. Explain that their goal for the game is to keep their car inside of their personal space (inside their tape square) during the whole song. When you hear the word "STOP" you need to freeze. We'll check in after the song.

The Song
Driving in my car
Driving in my car
I can stay in my space in my car.
Red light, STOP.

5) Check in with each child individually. If their car is in their space, they get a high five. If their car is outside of their space, then remind them to "back up!" and give their friends some space.

6) Repeat the song and make it more and more difficult for them to maintain personal space. I did it like this:
- drive car while on their knees
- drive car while standing up
- drive car with arms out to both sides
- dancing with car
When I saw children check their space and "back up!" to give someone else space, I made sure to point out their mindfulness and give them a high five.

Once everyone was getting high-fives all around, I challenged them to the ultimate. They would be masters of respecting personal space if they could get through this level! (SO EXCITE)
Move to an open space that does NOT have painters tape or otherwise visually obvious space dividers (a rug without lines). Sing the song while they dance, but they still have to pay attention to who is around them. Lots of high fives and celebrations when they get through the song together with no bumping!

8) Summary Discussion: We talked about how everyone was in the "green zone" - feeling good & having fun - when everyone was being mindful of personal space. No one was getting hurt, nothing was getting broken.

We will absolutely be doing this lesson again. Young children need concrete and fun practice with a skill like this. Plus, now that they know the language, when I catch them giving personal space and being mindful of others I can point it out.

How do you pro-actively reduce hitting and pushing with your children?