Book of the Week-Wally Wants To Hug

adminbody awareness, children's books, gross motor, personal space, preschool, role playing, school age, simon and schuster, social emotional, wally wants to hug Leave a Comment

My book recommendation this week is one that I have not only used with my kids at TMH Juniors, but one that I’ve suggested to the parents of kids I work with as their occupational therapist.  A very common concern that comes up in my initial conversations with parents is that they notice their children are rough with their siblings or their friends in school.  Or sometimes they get into other people’s personal space and have a hard time controlling that.  While they know it isn’t always intentional, they are concerned because it is having an impact on socializing with people.

Wally Wants To Hug by Barbara Joose is an adorable story that can help teach kids about personal space.  Wally is a boa constrictor who loves hugs.  He starts his days out with a big hug from his mother and ends his day with a big hug from his dad. Not only does he like getting hugs, he loves giving them out as well.  This isn’t a problem until his friends become scared of him and his too tight hugs.  Wally doesn’t want to make his friends scared, he also wants them to know how much he cares about them.  

One of the things that I love about Wally Wants To Hug is how it normalizes the behaviors we some from those sensory seeking kids we all know and love.  Those kids who have nothing but love to give but lack the understanding that what feels good to them may not feel the same to others.  Those big hugs, that getting close to talk to your friends and that bumping into your friends to let them know they want to with be with them is usually not an attempt to annoy or hurt their friends but rather them trying to let them know they want to play with them. These kids with decreased body awareness often have big hearts and just like Wally, they want to hug because it makes them feel good.  How is it possible that not everyone feels the same way they do? 

Teaching kids about personal space, especially those who are sensory seekers, can be challenging.  It’s incredibly important to help children be able to read body language of others.  With my group at TMH Juniors, we talk about being a Personal Space Invader….someone who gets into others space and may make people feel uncomfortable.  Here are some things you can help your children identify in others that might indicate they are feeling uncomfortable:
-is the other person squirming around trying to move away from you?
-does the other person’s body get stiff?
-how does the person’s face look?  Do they look like they are happy or feeling uncomfortable?

Below, you will find some questions you can ask your children and some activities you can do with your children when reading Wally Wants To Hug.  

~discuss the various ways you can say hello or show their affection towards a family member or a friend.  This can include hand shakes,  gentle high fives or gentle fist-bumps.  

~practice hugging with your child at home so they can learn when to stop or when it is just too much.  I think it’s important for a child to be able to read body language so make different faces (scared, sad, happy, etc.) so they can become more aware of how their friends may be feeling when they are hugging them. 

~if your child is one of those kids who really benefits from deep proprioceptive input and truly has difficulty controlling how hard they hug, get a stuffed animal they can keep at school to hug when they are craving that input.  

~I find that sometimes that kids benefit from visual reminders of what the appropriate amount of personal space is.  While being too close to people can make others feel uncomfortable, it’s equally important for them to understand that being too far away can also be a problem.  The visual to the right is simple and can be a good reminder for kids who have a hard time respecting personal space.  You can make a game out of it by taking some of your child’s favorite characters and do some role playing with them.  

~there are a lot of fun gross motor games that you can play to help children work on improving their body awareness.  One of our favorites at TMH is a version of musical chairs combined with freeze dance using hula hoops.  We put out a bunch of different colored hula hoops out and play music; when the music stops, we call out a color and the kids have to run to that hula hoop.  The challenge is that there is never enough for each kid to have their own hula hoop so they have to share the hula hoop with a friend without touching them.  

If you have a child who tends to be too rough with their friends or family or has a hard time with respecting personal space, Wally Wants To Hug is a great book to have in your personal library.  Teaching children about personal space at a young age will help set them up for social success as they get older.  If you have any other books that deal with this topic, I would love to hear from you.  I am only a click away and love hearing from you all.  

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