How to Teach Keeping Hands to Yourself in Kindergarten

Forbid all wrestling and roughhousing, even if it's playful.

Kindergartners often don't know how to express their feelings and frustrations, so they express these feelings through hitting or pushing others. Other children don't know how to get the attention of others without touching them. Whatever the reasons, you must create boundaries about touching from the first day of class so children are clear on what is and isn't acceptable. Consult a school administrator before the year begins to find out if your school has a specific policy that forbids students from friendly touching like hugging and holding hands.

Make a list of classroom rules on the first day of kindergarten. Ask children to suggest rules that help everyone be respectful. Create one rule such as "Be respectful of each other's personal space." Explain that this means hitting, poking and shoving others is not allowed.

Explain what the consequences will be for children who touch others in a way that is against the rules. Follow through on these consequences so all children see that hitting and shoving is not acceptable.

Ask children why it's important to keep their hands to themselves. Discuss how it feels to be hit or poked and ask children to guess how they make others feel when they use these actions.

Create activities that children can do when they feel angry instead of hitting others. Keep a ball of squishy balls that children can squeeze or let them punch a pillow.

Demonstrate these activities to children. Explain that rather than hitting, they must find another way to let out their anger or frustration. Tell children to either use a squishy ball or pillow or talk to a teacher when they feel like putting their hands on someone else.

Praise children when they keep their hands to themselves. When an angry child calms himself down or asks you for help calming down, tell him you're proud he made that choice.

  • If you have a student who seems to be touching others as a way of getting their attention, suggest other ways that she get attention. Suggest she use a child's name to make him look at her rather than touching him. Help her form friendships with other children by pairing her with different children to complete classroom tasks or art projects together.

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.