The “Hugging Tree” is a permanent fixture in our preschool classroom. It is the centre of our community time where we express our emotions and share how we are feeling. Social-emotional skills are an important element of preschool and children need to know that they are in a safe place where they can express their emotions and that there are caring adults who can help them understand and deal with their feelings.
We were finding that certain friends in our program needed plenty of hugs on a daily basis and that they were attempting to get hugs from all of their friends. Some friends didn’t always want a hug and would run away. This would create a “chase” throughout the classroom with the possibility of somebody falling and getting hurt.
The tree was introduced and we are pleasantly surprised and pleased at how much it is being used throughout the day. Children will randomly come and hug the tree. It’s not just a wee gentle hug, it is a huge bear-like hug with both arms wrapped tightly around the tree and sometimes, even a leg as the child balances on one foot.
Chasing for hugs has stopped and if the teacher sees a “need for a hug”, she can call out the child’s name and suggest they go hug the tree instead of their friend.
Our tree is full of life with many creatures living in it that require gentle care. We have a family of monkeys, birds, lizards and insects.
Our hugging tree is a wonderful addition to our classroom and there are so many learning activities we can do with the tree: the alphabet Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom, animal habitats, how to care for trees and plants, year of the Monkey, empathy and caring for animals and each other and emotional learning as part of our classroom management program on Conscious Discipline.
Note: Our tree is made with a cardboard carpet tube, wrapped in bubble wrap for that squishy feeling and then wrapped in burlap. The palm leaves were purchased. It is planted in a heavy pail with rocks and sand to ensure stability.
Katimavik Early Learning Centre