Part of building friendship skills is teaching kids to have an awareness of personal space with those around them. Body awareness is a big part of this, especially when social distancing is something to consider. Friendship skills involve a variety of pieces of the bigger social emotional skills picture and a component of that is personal space. Read more about the part that personal space plays in friendship skills, including personal space/body awareness activities. You’ll also find a free therapy slide deck to help children with the friendship skill of personal space and body awareness. If strategies to address friendship skills is needed for your clients, also try this writing about friendship slide deck.
Children who struggle with social and emotional development, and those with specific sensory preferences may show personal space issues that could be related to body awareness needs. For these needs, occupational therapists can offer several suggestions and interventions.
Occupational therapists have the ability to play a role in social skills training in children. Included in this support is activities designed to improve social and emotional skills.
One study indicated that children who participated in a friendship skills group in occupational therapy. The researchers found that children receiving the social skills training group showed improved friendship skills and quality of friendship as reported by the children’s parents.
Personal Space and Body Awareness
Some strategies to address personal space and body awareness can include:
- Develop strategies specific to the child to address the individual’s preferences
- Offer strategies for self-regulation
- Offer strategies for controlling inhibitions
- Focusing on spatial relations
- Teach self-regulation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, self-awareness, and mindfulness, to decrease anxiety while improving body awareness
- Incorporate play into spatial concepts such as over, under, around, and through
- Body drawing activities
- Body part naming activities
- Obstacle courses
- Proprioceptive activities
- Coach the child to state their preferences for personal space in a given situation
- Map activities for teaching spatial concepts
- Set up a small social skills group for a low-stress social gathering
- Offer instruction in sensory tactics that can help to calm or regulate sensory needs such as deep breathing exercises, heavy work input, or deep pressure
- Sensory integration occupational therapy interventions
- Practice social skills interactions that may come up in a given situation
- Work on working memory so the individual can pull from past successful situations
- Work on foresight so the individual can think ahead of tools they might need in a given situation
- Incorporate dance and music
- Body awareness games and activities such as Simon Says, Twister, and the Hokey Pokey. Use these printable Simon Says commands.
- Body awareness positioning activities
Because of the need many children have with developing an awareness of personal space, and the part that plays into friendship skills, I wanted to create a free Google slide deck to work on these skills.
You’ll see that the therapy slide deck pairs friendship with body awareness activities so that kids can practice various gross motor body positioning challenges.
These free slides offer movement activities to incorporate proprioceptive and vestibular input, as well as motor planning challenges. All of these activities challenge movement changes and body awareness.
Users can go through the slides and visually track from left to right as they complete each gross motor activity. There is an interactive portion of the slide deck when used in “edit mode” in Google slides. Kids can slide the round dot along the arrow to complete each gross motor activity in sequence.
This motor planning activity challenges body awareness needed for personal space awareness as a friendship skill. Kids can challenge themselves in movement, motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength, and movement changes for addressing personal space considerations as they learn how their body moves through space.
Free Body Awareness Slide Deck
Want to get a free Google slide deck to help kids with personal space and body awareness? This friendship theme activity deck is a fun way to get kids moving and gaining an awareness of their body and how it moves through space.
Enter your email into the form below. You will be emailed a PDF so you can access this slide deck at any time.
Before clicking the button on your PDF, be sure you are logged into your Google account. Make a copy and share the slide deck with anyone on your therapy caseload.
MORE SOCIAL Skills RESOURCES
Want to help kids explore social and emotional learning through play? Exploring Books Through Play inspires social and emotional development though play based on children’s books. The specifically chosen books explore concepts such as differences, acceptance, empathy, and friendship.
Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities Based on Books About Friendship, Acceptance and Empathy is filled with hands-on activities rooted in interactive, hands-on, sensory play that focus on creating a well-rounded early childhood education supporting growth in literacy, mathematics, science, emotional and social development, artistic expression, sensory exploration, gross motor development and fine motor skills. Kids can explore books while building specific skills in therapy sessions, as part of home programs, or in the home.
Click here to explore acceptance, empathy, and friendship through play.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.