When did a hug become a bad thing?


There was a time when the conventional wisdom was that we needed four hugs a day to survive, eight hugs a day to maintain, and 12 to grow. Later, as media reports of sexual assault cases spread like viruses, along with fear of lawsuits, educators and children were schooled in “bad touch” versus “good touch” (a hug was one of the latter). Now, more and more, we have no touch.

But isn’t this child abuse? According to Frances Carlson, author of Essential Touch: Meeting the Needs of Young Children, physical contact can be more important to sustaining life than food and water! As she told me in an interview for Body, Mind and Child, children need physical contact in order to thrive and grow in every aspect of development. She cited research indicating that when children are denied touch, they fail to grow physically and to develop the emotional and social skills they need to succeed in early childhood and in life.

Here’s a game that will ensure hugs happen! If you have a no-touch policy in place, you should play it with the children. This game will at least ensure that the children are getting hugs from each other!

Musical Hugs

Cognitive benefits:

· Developing listening skills

· Differentiating between sound and silence

· Practicing counting

Social/emotional benefits:

· Experiencing feelings of belonging

· Enjoying positive physical contact

· Learning self-expression

· Learning self-regulation

Physical benefits:

· Learning to start and stop

· Performing moderate-intensity physical activity


· CD player

· Musical recording(s)

How to Play

While the music is playing, the children (and teachers) move around the room any way they wish. When you stop the music, the players hug whoever is closest to them.

Another Way to Play:

For a slightly more challenging version of the game, two players hug during the first round, three players hug during the second round, four with the third round, and so forth, until there’s just one big group hug!

Adapted from Great Games for Young Children by Rae Pica (Silver Spring, MD: Gryphon House, 2006)

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