Beginning Friendships

When I run the truck over you I am playing with you.  I am playing trucks! We all need friends but it doesn’t happen automatically.  It takes time, effort and understanding to learn how to be a friend.  As our children grow developmentally, they move from solitary play to parallel play to associative play to cooperative play.  This means that the idea of friendship, negotiating the rules of play, and resolving conflicts become an important part of life at home and at school, beginning with very young children.

Taking a toy out of your hand is how I ask for a turn.

To begin fostering friendships we start with the personal and physical environment.  Modeling respectful ways of treating others:  voice tone, quality and choice of words – children watch, listen and learn to take turns, ask for help, show appreciation and empathy.  A "conversational" tone of a voice is a sign of respect. Creating space for small groups of children to play – both the physical placement of chairs at a table and the small groups that form with each individual co-oper can foster friendships.  Young children often find it easier to make friends in pairs or small groups.  Please note if someone is sitting on the outside looking in - encourage him to join the group or ask a child in the group to invite him in.

When I knock over your block tower I am trying to get your attention.

In conjunction with environment we address feelings.  As the adult, it is our job to help children identify her/his feelings and those of others.  When teaching conflict resolution it is important to share our observations and help with a solution...

You seem frustrated that the blocks keep falling down and I can see that you are angry with Suzy for knocking over your tower. You can tell Suzy that you do not like having your blocks knocked over. Maybe Suzy would like to help you build a new tower.

Pushing you may be my way of asking if I can play with you.

Respecting individual personalities.  Every child is different in her/his approach to the world.  Some run full speed ahead, others take their time, and some children take a long time or need a gentle hand.  Recognizing these differences and a child’s comfort level in social situations is key to developing successful friendships.  We want to encourage and foster friendships, not force them.

Pouring sand on your head is my way of saying “Hi”.

What is Friendship? Begin with a few simple rules: be kind, be gentle, and be helpful.  Discussions about friendship can teach a child what to say and do to join a group, ask for a turn, or tell someone else that their actions are upsetting them.  Reading books about sharing, compromising and listening will open the door for more conversations about how to be a good friend.

Friendships can be life long and are precious – let’s take the time and effort to teach our children how to be a good friend.

Adapted from Teaching Young Children Vol.2 No 3