While we can’t hug…


Following on from his bestselling book The Hug, author Eoin McLaughlin has written this genuine book for our time, talking to young children about social distancing. Find out more about how to share this book!

Hedgehog and Tortoise want to give each other a hug but they know that they are not allowed to, so they find some other ways of saying hello. Try some of these activities with your children, at home, nursery or school, and help them to reach out to each other, without hugging or touching.

Different ways to wave
Hedgehog and Tortoise try waving at each other instead of hugging. Let children experiment with different ways of waving or greeting each other. Try thumbs up, bowing or curtseying, socially distanced high five, or double handed waves. Can they invent some other hand signals or signs? Remind children to respond with a smile.

Electronic hellos and hugs
Go electronic and let children send a ‘wave’ emoji by email. Explore other emojis such as smiley faces, hugs and thumbs up signs. Let children design their own emoji on a paper plate or circle of cardboard.

Pulling funny faces
Tortoise pulls a funny face to make Hedgehog laugh. Have a funny face competition. Who can pull the funniest face? Take some photos of the children’s efforts. Remind them not to keep pulling faces because if the wind changes, it might stick like that!

Funny face art
Look at some examples of funny faces in famous art. Show the children  ‘Vertumnus’ by Arcimboldo or ‘Dora Maar’ by Picasso. Use different fruit and vegetables to make a funny face. Let children try painting their own pictures of funny faces. Display their artwork in a ‘Funny face gallery’ along with photos of their own funny faces.

Face painting day
Organise a face painting day. Invite children to come to school with their face painted. Provide face paints in school for children to use on themselves or ask a member of staff or parent to come in a paint faces for you. [NB. This will only be possible once social distancing measures are lifted.]

Writing letters
Hedgehog and Tortoise exchange letters. Provide lots of different paper, envelopes, stickers, pens and crayons and invite children to write a letter to a special friend or member of the family. Help them to write the address on the envelope and stick on a stamp. Walk to the post box and post the letter. Hopefully you will also get a reply to open and read.

Do a little distance dancing
Tortoise does a little dance and Hedgehog joins in. Encourage children to do a little dance and invite their dancing partner to join in. Challenge them to copy or mirror each other’s moves accurately? Add some music and try some distance dancing.

Singing songs
Tortoise sings a song and Hedgehog joins in. Listen to a recording of ‘With a little help from my friends’ online and join in the chorus. Try singing this song with the children to the tune of ‘Here we go round the Mulberry bush’:

Will you sing a song with me?

Sing with me, sing with me.

Will you sing a song with me?

We can sing together.

Painting with friends
Hedgehog and Tortoise both like painting pictures. Set up two painting stations or easels and challenge children to paint pictures together. Invite children to choose a special painting partner. They can try painting rainbows following the same order of colours. They can choose another image to paint together or even try painting each other’s portraits. Ask children to take turns to pose for each other to paint.

When we can hug
Check out The Hug and find out how Hedgehog and Tortoise first met. Explore the dual narrative in this clever book, choosing to start at either end, and enjoy the ‘joyful conclusion’ in the middle! Choose two new characters and make a book that follows the same pattern.

And finally…
Don’t forget that some children do not feel comfortable giving or receiving hugs even when they are allowed. Some of the ideas in this feature will support children who have personal space issues to feel included as part of your community.

While We Can't Hug is written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Faber & Faber, £5.99 for the paperback)

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