The Space We Live In

I have a seven-year old boy who sometimes forgets his, and others peoples’, boundaries. He gets up into other kid’s faces and makes nonsensical and loud noises. For kids who need space or who simply don’t know my awesome boy yet, this can be confusing and off-putting. You can see it written all over their faces: fear, annoyance, confusion, anxiousness. I have tried my best to teach him about respect and boundaries. I have talked with him about the dangers of being misunderstood (I suddenly feel the need to belt out, ‘Please Don’t let me be Misunderstood’). I have reminded him that he is simply awesome and he doesn’t have to get up into other people’s faces to get attention. I’m sure it’s sinking in. I hope it’s sinking in. Even if it is, I have a feeling it will still take years of repetition on our part and also general maturing on his part, for him to find the balance of it all. He’s so awesome – he really is.

So, I’ve been wanting to trace the kid’s bodies and get them to design the shape with drawn-on clothes and faces for a while now. I’ve seen it done in schools and the results are always beautiful and interesting. I’ve been carrying around a roll of white craft paper for just that purpose for a while now – I even packed it with us when we came to Newfoundland! A while after seeing the idea I also read, in all my research about kids learning about personal space, about how doing body tracing like this can give children a sense of their own bodies in the world and help them become aware of how they might affect others – they can actually see how much space they take up on the couch or on the floor. So of course I felt even more encouraged to try this. Not only was it a colourful looking art project for a stormy day, it could also really help my kids with identity formation and body awareness.

So, the other day I finally hauled the roll of paper out. My four-year old was the first one to try it and I’m not sure how she processed it, but it had a disorienting affect on me. I wondered out loud, “Is that really how tall you are?”, “Look at how long you look on the floor!” It’s hard to grasp – the drawing does actually seem larger than the person, but they’re exactly the same size.

She was very specific about the colours in her dress and the colour of her nails. My favourite part might be the one green hand.

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A few days later, after the art had been hung up on the wall, my seven-year old son decided he wanted to try. So I went to the paper roll and realized I only had half of what we needed. He was disappointed, but then I suggested we experiment with different body shapes. That’s when he lay down like this:

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Again, I’m not sure how it affected him – I may need to follow-up with some questions or other activities, but it was fun and it definitely gives one a different perspective on one’s body and the space we live in.

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