Hug Machine

A discussion about personal space, affection, and boundaries

A pink book cover with the words "Hug Machine" written across the top. In the picture, a little boy hugs a mailbox.
Note: This book is not about personal space and boundaries, but this is the theme my discussion questions focus on.


Unpopular opinion alert: I didn’t LOVE this book. But I do have some ideas for using it as a read-aloud to teach an important lesson on hugging and affection.

The little boy in this story is The Hug Machine- nobody can resist his hugs and he will hug anything and everything. His hugs make people and animals feel good, and he even figures out how to hug the unhuggable porcupine (that part is very cute, I must say).

Here’s my problem with the book: Its message is that EVERYONE loves hugs and they make people (and animals) feel good. While the overall message of spreading love and kindness is sweet, I think it is more important to teach children about personal space and boundaries, and that not everyone likes to be hugged or touched. As a kindergarten teacher, I’ve talked a lot about personal space, or “bubble space” with my students. When I was pregnant, this was especially important because I was on the receiving end of a few surprise hugs that made me nervous about putting the baby at risk! I also taught my kids that they are the bosses of their own bodies, and if they don’t want to be hugged, that is perfectly fine. I could go on and on about how important I think it is to teach kids how to respect others’ boundaries and comfortably stand up for their own but for now, here are a few discussion questions you can ask while reading this book to help you talk with your children about boundaries!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does The Hug Machine do? Why? (He gives everyone hugs to make them feel good)
  2. Do you think it would be safe to actually hug all the things that he hugs? (No; he hugs a bear, a porcupine, people in his neighborhood who might be strangers, and a snake!)
  3. How do you feel when you get hugged? Are there any times when you might not want a hug?
  4. What could the little boy do before he hugs someone to make sure they want to be hugged? (He could ask, “Can I give you a hug?”)
  5. Can you think of some other ways you can make a person happy without hugging them? (wave hello, give them a compliment, ask them to play, give a high five if they want one, etc.)

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