Young kids learn best from play, whether it’s through toys that help develop vital gross and fine motor skills or crafts that introduce their minds to the concepts of letter, number and color recognition. Play can also be used to teach social skills, from problem solving to sharing. Or more complex social awareness, like consent.
Consent can be a hard concept for children to grasp, especially if someone’s mouth says one thing but their body says another. There are handfuls of great books that can help parents teach consent from an early age, but if your kid learns best from play, and especially dramatic play, Kelsey Pomeroy (@kelsewhatelse on Instagram) shared a creative way to teach consent.
The body language game she plays with her two boys helps them recognize consent without words and gives an opportunity for role playing. In the game, they take turns being the person going in for a hug and the person about to receive the hug. The recipient either shows they’re open to contact or that they don’t feel comfortable, all by using their body language.
“If I had daughters I would play this game with them too to help teach enthusiastic consent AND help practice setting boundaries,” Pomeroy captioned the viral video that shows her and her son playing the game. “We talk about how even if someone isn’t saying ‘no’ with their words, they might be saying ‘no’, ‘I don’t like this’, or ‘I’m uncomfortable’ with their body language. That means we stop.”
After doing a round where she’s making her boundaries clear, Pomery lets her son have a turn demonstrating his own body autonomy and what that looks like. “We also reverse the roles so he can practice protecting his own body too,” she wrote before noting that they use verbal cues too. “We also practice using our voice to say ‘no’, ‘stop’, and ‘I don’t like that.’”
The game also serves as an opportunity to talk about other scenarios, like standing up for other people, asking for help and other situations where reading body language is key. “We talk about standing up for others, asking for help from a trusted adult, and ‘reading’ body language in other situations,” Pomeroy explained. “Like if he sees a kid on the playground alone and looking sad, what could he do? What is their body language saying about how they’re feeling?”
Children are extremely observant, and a surefire way to teach them something is by modeling it yourself. “I take special care to point out what my body language is saying during the day and to point out what I see his body language telling me even when his words aren’t speaking,” Pomeroy noted at the end of the caption.
After explaining the game in her initial reel, the mama shared three more videos demonstrating varying levels of the game, including “Situational Awareness and Using Your Voice,” “Enthusiastic Yes — Big Yes,” and “Changing Our Minds After a ‘Yes.’” Her son is 5 and was able to clearly identify how to act/react in each scenario. Sometimes we forget how much young children understand!
There are so many layers to consent that even some adults may not think about consciously, so games like this serve as an important reminder for the parent as much as the child. It’s also a great way to bond with your kiddo, and who doesn’t love that?