I need my bubble
I need my very own bubble, my own space… Have you ever used this expression? As adults, we can verbalize this need. We can feel physical discomfort when others enter our bubble, but we can tell others to step back. Children may not be able to the same, unless they have learned to do so. Often, they express their discomfort in inappropriate ways. They may, for example, push, cry or hit their peers.
I have noticed that many conflicts arise because of this need for personal space that is not always respected by children. Think about it. Would you be able to spend every day in a small room with five other adults? Maybe not. At the very least, I am sure that you wouldn’t appreciate it yet, that is exactly what we ask of children in a daycare setting. It is therefore not surprising that, from time to time, the tension escalates and tempers soar. Since this is the reality you must deal with daily, why not establish general rules to help children deal with the proximity of their peers?
- Teach children to recognize signs of physical discomfort and name their need for space. If we take the time to analyze ourselves, certain physical sensations are present when another person enters our personal bubble. Name these sensations with the children in your group. Provide them with various means they can use to express their need appropriately. They can, for example, tell a friend that he is standing too close, step away, go to another play area, etc. Children need to learn to manage this situation. Take a few minutes to help them when you notice they are uncomfortable and need space.
- Delimit an area that children can use to “signal” to others they need space. Use small mats or rugs and invite children to set one on the floor to represent their personal space. The use of such tools can help others recognize when a friend needs to be left alone.
- Create a calm area within your daycare. Inform children that only one child can use this area at a time. When a child needs time alone, he can go to this area for a few minutes and therefore avoid reacting negatively.
In a group setting, children must develop many social skills. As early childhood educators, we know that children sometimes need to be left alone. Don’t forget that, until 5 years of age, children are quite egocentric. Be sure to provide tools and alternatives that can be used whenever children seem to need to be alone for a few minutes. For some, “tolerating” the presence of others is easy. For others, it can be quite challenging. Helping them enjoy the “alone time” they need and crave will be beneficial for all. Teaching children to express their need represents an important tool to add to their toolbox…one that will help them in the future!