UPDATE: Kindergarteners Banned from Touching Each Other at Recess

Readers — To use my friend Gever nfzsbidfia
Tulley’s term
, we are geniuses when it comes to “dangerizing.” To dangerize is to take a hitherto normal activity or item and re-interpret it as something dangerous. That’s how we get baby knee pads — we dangerize crawling. And Halloween restrictions — we dangerize trick or treating. And now, a school in British Columbia has banned kindergarteners from touching each other at recess: According to The Globe and Mail:

Why did the school make the new rule? The [school’s] letter cites playground injuries that have come from games and other forms of hands-on play. The letter also requests that parents discuss the touching ban with their kids and encourage them to play imaginary games that don’t involve fighting.

To quote directly from the letter: “We will have a zero-tolerance policy with regards to hands-on play, resulting in the missing of playtime and trips to the office for those who are unable to follow the rules.”

I do hope they ban movement next, because kids often get hurt when they walk, run, wiggle, skip or jump. We really can’t expose our kids to that kind of danger. If I were the school, I’d add that any child found playing will result in the missing of playtime. (And isn’t “in the missing of playtime” exactly the kind of felicitous phrasing you hope they are teaching the kids? Maybe they can all grow up to be bureaucrats!) – L.

UPDATE: Read the principal explaining her actions here. She blames some recent “injuries” and says the ban is temporary and touching will be re-introduced once kids learn to play “safely.”

But what is “safely”? Is it when NO ONE gets hurt?  Is there a way to ever guarantee that, and would we want to?

And why penalize touching, even hand-holding, in order to teach new ways of playing? There’s a difference between shutting down play and teaching kids new, fun things to do outside.  This rule seems drastic and desperate. – L.

Hey you kids! Cut that dangerous activity out!

Hey you kids! Cut that dangerous activity out!


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41 Responses to UPDATE: Kindergarteners Banned from Touching Each Other at Recess

  1. Bose in St. Peter MN November 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Having rules merely for the purpose of teaching how to follow rules teaches, instead, that worthwhile rules are capricious and unnecessary.

  2. Donna November 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Insert eye roll.

    I’ve heard the person in charge of the afterschool program for the little kids (pre-k and k) at my daughter’s school say the same thing. Every day, as soon as they get outside, she rolls off a whole list of things that they can’t do before they run off to play – touching, tag and many others. I’ve never heard the afterschool program leader for the older kids say anything of the sort.

    We are required to clear off the playground when the afterschool kids come out so I don’t get a great look at what goes on, but I’ve seen kids touching and not getting in trouble so I imagine that it is a rule that is unenforced until someone gets hurt or whines.

  3. Shelly Stow November 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    This is one of the saddest things I have read. If this becomes the norm, the next generation will be one that is incapable of expressing feelings through hugs, kisses, even pats on the back or holding hands.

  4. E Simms November 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    This reminds me of the prison visitation scenes in Arrested Development:


  5. anonymous this time November 5, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Sounds like the adults are wanting ease more than anything else. And comfort.

    It’s so uncomfortable to be consoling kids who are having strong feelings; we’ll do anything to avoid it, I guess including banning whatever we think might precipitate their encountering those strong feelings.

    Adults, bone up on your empathy skills. Realize that children NEED to feel uncomfortable sometimes, they need to cry, they need to fall down, get hurt, get patched up, and get back out there.

    Kids also need to be bored, and that’s mighty uncomfortable for adults too. But pushing through hurt, boredom, fear, and frustration is EXACTLY what leads to emotional self-regulation… what all adults crave of children in the first place. Keep yourself calm, so I don’t have to. But kids need to practice calming themselves, and they need us to demonstrate how it’s done.

    Avoidance of all of this “messy stuff” is a tragically flawed strategy. It doesn’t make things easier for anyone, in the short or the long term, but boy, do people want to try this stuff out.

    Prayers going out to this school and all the kids in it. May you find the peace you crave while still encouraging children to learn and grow.

  6. SKL November 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    I was thinking about Dodgeball recently. I hated Dodgeball. But, I’m trying to remember where I recently read/heard that having things unpredictably thrown at or touch different body parts, so you have perceive it and react quickly, is therapy for some developmental lack. Dang, I guess senility really is taking over. (All the sitting in front of this computer must have done it!)

    Touch is a basic human need, and little kids need to touch other humans rather frequently. That’s why they don’t yet feel funny hugging and holding hands with whomever, wherever. People don’t seem to understand that when you take that away, you are removing a building block of normal development, and there will be consequences. 10 or 20 years from now, someone will fund a multi-million dollar study saying that kindergarteners aren’t being touched enough. :/

    I read somewhere that a tight squeeze can get some kids with attention issues back on track (without drugs). I can see that being the case with one of my daughters. A big bear hug can really get her to focus (happily). Too bad nobody’s allowed to touch her all day at school. :/

  7. Ben November 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Seriously, this is beyond sad. It’s criminal. You can’t ban kids from touching each other. Kids need to play to develop and tag, soccer, cops and robbers and goodness knows what other games require them to be able to touch each other. Besides, they also need to learn how to touch each other respectfully and how to respect someone’s private space. You can’t learn any of that if all touching is forbidden.

    Me thinks the school is employing a blanket zero tolerance policy because they can’t be bothered to do their job and handle things on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, the kids will be the victims here.

    Can’t they simply ban kids hurting each other on purpose and allow hand-holding, pats on the back and hugs?

  8. LTMG November 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    At this school, the uneducated and unwise are chartered with instructing the uneducated and inexperienced. What could possibly go wrong?

  9. Beth November 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Oh good Lord. So in addition to no tag or ball sports of any variety, we also have no:

    London bridge
    Duck, duck goose
    Miss Mary Mack
    Cat’s cradle
    One potato, two potato
    Ring Around the Rosie
    Thumb Wars – Oh wait. Is that a “fighting game”?

  10. Gina November 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Dear God. I am speechless.

  11. BL November 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Believe it or not, I mean the following question in all seriousness:

    Are these people even human?

  12. Warren November 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Gotta love the intimidating zero tolerance statement. At least the parents seem upset about this. Hopefully they will fight it.

  13. hineata November 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Oh, so many shades of dumb! I still get hugs sometimes from even the older kids at school – they’re a touchy-feely bunch where I work 🙂 – cannot imagine trying to get the younger ones to stop hugging, tagging, piggybacking etc. Would be, thankfully, a completely lost cause. And, to add the PC touch, totally ‘culturally inappropriate’.:-)

  14. Katie November 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    It’s only a matter of time until kids have no interaction with others kids at all. Some hardly do now.

    Helicopter parents stick their kids in giant SUVs and minivans so they aren’t anywhere near each other and can’t interact at all. They not only give each kid their own bedroom, but in some cases their own play rooms too. I also think it leads to a lot of misdiagnosis of autism and other problems. That’s not to say all diagnosis of autism are incorrect, but I’d say at least half are environmental.

  15. Helen November 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I’m ashamed that this story comes from my neck of the woods – I had a smug belief until now that we west-coasters are a little better-adjusted than this. So I’m just about to e-mail the principal – her name is Barbara Dayco. Consider dropping her line and asking her to “think of the children”! bdayco at sd35.bc.ca

  16. lollipoplover November 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Playground injuries will still happen even if you ban touching. You just transfer the risk to other activities.
    Kids are good at finding fun and interesting ways to injure themselves in the short periods of time we allow them to play. But banning touching? Why not just ban cooties and the cheese touch?

    My nephew told me about his kindergartener who was playing musical chairs in her classroom. One of the kids tried to get on a chair and dislocated her knee. So the school banned musical chairs. Because chairs are truly dangerous.
    Accidents will happen even if every rule is followed.

  17. Sara November 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    How does this work in PE and Music class? Half of the singing games I do in my class involve some bit of touching (hand holding, hand patting ect. . . ). No folk dancing, ring around the rosy or hand clapping games because the kids will touch eachother?

  18. sloan44 November 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    This is unreal. So sad. if this catches on through out the states just imagine how the kids of today will turn out to be

  19. CrazyCatLady November 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Well, I guess it was a good thing that I home school. My oldest would have been expelled. He was always very “hands on” and always running up and hugging people. ALL THE TIME.

    I did want to send him to kinder, but he was a VERY wiggly boy (yes, more than most,) who needed his hands on things and people. The teacher that they gave him was the same one my daughter had – who HATED boys who couldn’t sit still, and when my son gave her a hug one day she was visibly upset. I just couldn’t put my son in with her.

    Two years later (when we had better insurance) we discovered that he had a lazy eye and he was hugging so that he could “see” people. Once we did therapy, his need to touch and hug went way down (to appropriate levels) and so did his wiggling. Turns out he was seeing in double vision and if he moved, he would see just one…if he was still he would see two. So yes, he would have been thrown out of this school because of his medical needs.

  20. Papilio November 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    “I do hope they ban movement next, because kids often get hurt when they walk, run, wiggle, skip or jump.”

    And I hope next they forbid the kids to talk to each other, lest they hurt each other verbally.

  21. Papilio November 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Re that tweet: “Danke schon!” (o pronounced as in your name) should be ‘Danke schön!” (ö pronounced… Eh… kind of like an ‘ay’, but holding your lips the way you would for an o); otherwise you’re saying ‘thanks already’ (or something like that) instead of ‘thanks a lot’. 😉

    I’ll shut up schon.

  22. jenni November 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    So incredibly thankful right now for my son’s preschool/kindergarten, a demonstration learning community run by the teaching program at the university where I work.

    The school recognizes that physical play is a developmentally appropriate and important part of learning for children — especially boys. They are absolutely welcome to wrestle, play fight, etc., during appropriate times (the several hours a day they spend outside, regardless of weather, for example).

    The school staff looks at this type of play as a learning experience and tries to direct the children to negotiate with one another and recognize each other’s feelings (the “punching game,” aka play fighting, is OK if all parties are participating willingly, and they help kids see the difference between consensual play fighting and bullying or the difference between a pretend hit and a real hit).

    Lest anyone think that the school promotes violence, it’s worth noting that the same school also is OK with hugging, etc., between students (though my son was encouraged to save kisses for family to decrease the spread of illness).

    Preschool and kindergarten exist to help children learn to socialize, to interact in healthy and appropriate ways with each other, and to build relationships. No touching seems like a way to create some very maladjusted young people.

  23. Reziac November 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Someone says, “And I hope next they forbid the kids to talk to each other, lest they hurt each other verbally.”

    Oh, they have — verbal bullying, they call it, and gods forbid any child should have to develop a thick skin or learn when it’s inappropriate to react.

  24. Bridget November 5, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    As parents, we need to just march in and say….NOPE….we refuse you idiots.

  25. Timothy Cooke November 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Can it get much more ridiculous than this? Maybe.

  26. SKL November 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    It’s a good thing my kids have each other to beat up, so we don’t have to care so much about what the crazy institutions do.

  27. Vanessa November 6, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    On a somewhat more encouraging note, today I had to pick my high-school freshman up from school and take her home mid-morning because she wasn’t feeling well. I was expecting to have to go through some sort of draconian process to retrieve her, but instead she called me, said “here’s my mom” and handed the phone to the school nurse, who asked when I could come and get her. I said “in about 15 minutes,” and she said “Okay, I’ll send her out to wait in front of the school for you.” And she did! Obviously that’s the way it SHOULD be for an almost-15-year-old, but I’m so used to tales of over-the-top rules that I was really surprised. Pleasantly, though.

  28. Earth.W November 6, 2013 at 2:45 am #

    Impossible to police. I’m sure they’re intent on destroying the West by making our children grow into emotionally traumatised adults.

  29. Donna November 6, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    I can understand the school’s desire to avoid as many injuries as possible, if for no reason other than to not have to waste time dealing with over-reacting helicopter parents. But touching doesn’t lead to injuries. Hitting may lead to injuries. Pushing may lead to injuries. Pinching may lead to injuries. So ban those things and deal with the children who continue to do those things individually.

    We have become a society that just likes to ban, lest there be the possibility that someone will do it wrong and you’ll have to address a specific situation. We are creating a generation that will have absolutely no self-control because we have taught them that they can’t be trusted to engage in a healthy amount of anything. All they hear is “you can’t touch because you will do it too hard; you can’t watch tv because you will watch the wrong thing; you can’t eat candy because you will eat too much” and on and on and on.

    And how do they expect to teach children proper touch if they aren’t allowed to touch during the teaching? It is all well and good to teach kids new games to play, but at the end of the day, the children who were grabbing and tugging have still not learned not to grab and tug and will go back to doing it as soon as the touching ban is lifted and then they are back as square one.

  30. pentamom November 6, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Vanessa — that’s what they do at my kids’ high school as well. They let them go wait by the door (whichever door they’ll be picked up at) if they need to be picked up during the school day. We shouldn’t even have to note it, because it should be normal, but at I’m just glad I don’t have to go through the whole crazy park (which is impossible within about two blocks during the school day), buzz in, walk up to the nurse’s office, sign her out kind of thing.

  31. Sharon November 6, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Let children play and learn boundaries. Otherwise even when they are big they will cry to Mommy for help. How can you explain the difference between a good and bad touch if they don’t know what either feels like.

  32. lihtox November 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I’m not bothered by a temporary restriction per se…sometimes I have to tell my 6-year-old to get away from her little brother, even if she’s being affectionate, because I know it can go too far. What bugs me more is the blanket rule. Are *all* children being too rough? I doubt it. I’ll bet there’s lots of kids who are gentle and know how to be safe, and are being punished along with the rest, and being taught to lose respect in authority. (Some would argue that that’s a good lesson, but probably not the intended one.)
    Our middle school used to have “silent lunch periods” where the whole group (a couple hundred students) couldn’t talk during lunch because a few losers couldn’t control themselves when the lights went off. Lazy discipline is what that is. Short-term blanket restrictions to get control of a situation: absolutely. But figure out who’s causing the problem, and leave the innocent parties be.

  33. lollipoplover November 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    The principal clarified that she wanted to end “…fighting games such as “Star Wars games”.
    It sounds like her problem is a specific group of kids, probably boys playing light saber battles. Why she doesn’t address the actual problem children with limits to physical play and instead bans all touching, good and bad, is just lazy. Help the kids who cause injuries in others learn self-control and play nice. Don’t punish everyone because you can’t single out a few rough ones.

    OT but on the subject of recess play: my daughter comes home with random playground injuries from time to time. The newest one was from a Hula Hoop. I asked how it happened- she had scabs on elbows and grass stains and scrapes on both knees! She said that kids were using The Hula Hoops in games of tag to “catch” each other, which she said was fun, but the recess aide said to stop playing, it was too dangerous. So they stopped. Instead, the girls decided to have one girl roll the Hula Hoop down a hill while a girl at the bottom dove through the hoop (my daughter). So that’s how she got scrapes on her elbows and grass stains on her knees…

  34. Hellen November 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Good Grief!!!!

  35. John November 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    I’ve said this a million times and I’m gonna say it again, slowly but surely we are turning our kids into a bunch of creampuffs here in America. America might still be a dominating factor in the summer and winter Olympics BUT if we keep on the way we are with our children, someday they will not be as strong and as tough and as skilled as the European, Asian and Middle-Eastern athletes from even the smaller countries. Primarily because we’re restricting them and even coddling them and making up more restrictive rules for them because they’re children. Any Olympic athlete will tell you that they worked extremely hard at their sport and made all kinds of sacrifices FROM THE TIME THEY WERE CHILDREN on up to adults in order to earn a gold metal in the olympics. But nowadays, the “child experts” we have here in America refer to extremely hard physical work and sacrifices by our children as “child abuse”.

  36. Warren November 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm #


    Why are star wars games and fighting games players problem kids? If they are playing these games, and not including those that do not want to play, why is this a problem?

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with rough play, as long as all those involved are willing players. In elementary school we played street hockey, foot hockey, frisbee football, red rover, and all sorts of games. We suffered bumps, bruises, cuts needing stitches, to I think the worst being a broken collar bone. And none of our games were ever banned. It is called life.
    As a matter of fact, I was the one that broke my buddy’s collar bone. Playng foot hockey, we tried to check each other, and down we went. Grade 5. I went to his place to check on him that night, and when I apologized to his parents, I remember them telling me that it was an accident and part of the game, and to not worry about it. He was back to school in three days, arm in a sling.

  37. Emily November 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    @Warren–That’s a really nice story. You accidentally hurt your friend playing foot hockey, and felt compassion for him, and went to check on him and apologize to him and his parents after school, all at the age of ten……and his parents didn’t scream and yell and threaten a lawsuit; they just accepted it as an accidental injury from a typical game of foot hockey on the playground (tennis ball on the pavement, right?) Anyway, the only way you were able to learn those lessons, of how hard to body-check, and how to deal with the aftermath of checking too hard, which varies based on the conditions of the playing area, the size of your opponent), was by being allowed to play a game that had some element of risk in it.

    Even eliminating physical contact doesn’t necessarily eliminate danger. When I was maybe ten years old, I was jumping in a pile of leaves at the neighbour kids’ house (their mom babysat me and my brother after school), and I accidentally landed on my ankle. I think I stopped jumping in leaves after that incident, but anyway, the mother was actively encouraging the leaf-jumping at the time, because it’s not normally a dangerous game. After I got hurt, the oldest son *had* to touch me a bit, to help me into the house, so I could ice my ankle. Under the “zero tolerance” policy against touching, THAT wouldn’t have been allowed. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I agree with everyone else–most childhood play activities have some element of danger, and so, if you eliminate everything that could possibly be dangerous, you’re effectively eliminating play, which would hurt kids a lot more in the long run, than any bump or bruise or broken bone, could hurt them in the short run.

  38. lollipoplover November 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    I just saw this and thought of the “no touching”. What great kids.


  39. Katie November 7, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Forget about how ridiculous this is or all the other reasons commenters here have presented (part of growing up, critical to development, etc., etc., etc.)…

    How do you even police this? It is completely ridiculous! There is no way that at 5 & 6 year old kids can keep this in mind all the time. There would be a CONSTANT stream of Nope – can’t do that, Nope – not that either…and then the tattling when someone does something – Sally touched me, Did not, etc. etc. etc.
    Unless they just stop letting the kids out and all sit at their desks during recess…completely impossible.

  40. B. Nice November 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    How are they going to learn to play safely if they are not allowed to play?

  41. wendy November 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I am embarrassed to say that is from my Province, the insanity is coming at us from the north and the south. We are gonna have a lot of really screwed up adults in the near future. I used to be smug about living in BC but it is getting just as bad here. My kids baseball this spring, no outs, the adult pitches until the kid hits– even if it is foul and the last batter automatically get a home run. Oh and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season. FOR WHAT… showing up apparently.