Teaching Proximity

You all know I am a fan of sidewalk chalk for many reasons!  (See this post if you don’t)

I also think it’s a great tool for teaching the concept of near and far.  We’ve all heard parents (and probably been parents) telling their child to “Stay close!” Not long after that you generally hear (or say), “That’s too far!  I said to stay close!”  “If you can’t stay close to me we’re leaving right now” or “If you can’t stay close you’re getting locked into this stroller/cart!” 

Close, Near, Far… they’re very relative terms.  Do our kids know what we mean when we say “Stay close!”  They probably don’t really get it, especially if we haven’t explained it to them fully.  We end up frustrated, they end up punished for disobeying and they don’t really understand how to obey our directions, so it will all be repeated again and again. 

I’ve learned to be very specific for J’s age.  “J, you must hold Mommy’s hand.”  “J, hold Mommy’s leg.” (for when my hands are full or my head is turned away, but I NEED to know where he is at all times), “J, you must keep your hand on the cart.” “J, stay in the grass…. in the driveway, in this chair, in the den.”  If I’m not that specific with my directions, he doesn’t get it and we both end up losing it.

For older kids, you can practice the meaning of near and far using sidewalk chalk!! 

Draw three concentric circles, each with different colors. 

  • A small circle – one that you and your child can both fit inside but would probably be touching to do so, 
  •  A medium circle – one in which you and your child don’t have to be touching to share, but could with an easy reach of the hand
  • A large circle –  one in which you and your child could not possibly touch unless you moved towards each other  (this would take up my entire driveway)

Then you stand in the smallest, center circle.  Have your little one join you in the same circle.  Point out that you are so close that you’re touching each other.  This is how close they should be if we’re walking in a parking lot or in the street.  We should always be holding hands, so we’re very close to each other. 

Have them move to the middle circle and explain that you are still near each other.  He/she can reach out his hand to touch you if needed.  This is an ok distance for the mall or the grocery store (or wherever you deem appropriate). 

Have them move to the largest circle and explain that you are now far from each other.  You can still easily see each other but you would both have to move much closer in order to touch.  This is too far for them to be from mom/dad if we’re at the parking lot, the street, the mall, the store, but ok for the backyard or the park. 

I would be very specific about the locations but of course choose which location works best for each circle for yourself.  Obviously plan this out and draw your circles according to the distance you are ok with. 

After initially teaching them the concept, practice, practice, practice.  Make a fun game out of it.  Call out a location and have them quickly run to the correct circle.  Eventually remove the circles and see if they can still determine the correct distance for the different settings.  Or when you’re at the store, remind them they must stay near you which means they must stay within the middle circle (or the green/purple/orange circle) from you at all times.


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