What does it mean when we say kids have poor body awareness and how does it impact peer interactions? I think of it in two different but related ways; sort of an internal awareness and other-awareness. When kids struggle with body awareness internally we often talk about how they don’t know where their bodies are in space. They may bump into people and objects, trip a lot, get too close when talking, or lean on others unknowingly.
By “other-awareness” (which is definitely NOT a clinically accepted term) I am referring to an understanding of body language and facial expressions in other people as well as being able to communicate with one’s own bodies and expressions. Bumping into others and accidentally ruining a peer’s precious project has an obvious impact on social dynamics. Who wants to play with someone who gets in your space and wrecks your valuable creation? Poor comprehension of physical and facial expression can be equally damaging to friendship development. Misunderstanding body clues that say, “Stay away”, “I’m busy now”, “Follow me”, “Do you like it?” “I’m happy”, “I’m sad”, “Be quiet”, etc. makes life painfully confusing.
One of my favorite games to help kids tune into facial and body expressions is the “Stop ‘N’ Go” game. This completely non-verbal game requires that kids watch the leader and interpret her actions to be able to play. I find that once kids are tuned into even trying to interpret this language, their awareness increases significantly and carries over into other activities. Sometimes I wish we could have non-verbal hour every day in school and home. Hmmmmm … maybe even non-verbal half or whole days! Please share ideas and activities you have for helping kids with body awareness in social situations.
by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L
image by: OliBac
This activity and others like it are available in our Social Adventures app.