Children spend the majority of their day at school, so it makes sense that this place is also where they find many of their friends. However, for some children, making friends does not come naturally. Temperament, social skills, language development, and home life all play a pivotal role in a child’s ability to make and maintain friendships.
School is also the perfect place to learn and perfect the needed developmental skills to make and maintain friendships. Below are some ideas parents and teachers can use to encourage the making of friendships.
1. Group Activities
Some children are more reluctant than others to join an already-established game or playgroup. Teachers can encourage friendship and inclusion by organizing group games such as scavenger hunts, parachute play, relay races, music, movement, or large art projects.
When the teacher organizes the activity or game and everyone is invited and encouraged to play, shy children are likely to join in, especially if it is part of the daily lessons or routine.
Teachers should implement various large group activities, so children with different interests have a chance to engage in something they enjoy. A quiet student may be able to shine when participating in a game or activity they are skilled at doing.
Group activities promote team-building, language skills, social skills, and problem-solving.
2. Buddy System
Teachers should use the buddy system or small groups for weekly activities. A student may be more likely to speak up when paired with only one or two other students for an activity or play area.
New students can be paired with an established student to help them learn how the classroom functions and the routine so they have someone to sit with during meals and snack times.
The buddy system allows new and experienced students to get to know someone new, develop new skills, and learn about someone else’s interests. It also promotes leadership skills and confidence building for the experienced buddy.
Books and book discussions are excellent ways to promote friendship. Parents and teachers should ask open-ended questions about the book that prompt children to think about how the characters behaved and how they would react in a similar situation.
If the characters in the story behave poorly, the reader can ask children how they should have behaved differently to act as good friends.
Books teach children literacy and social-emotional skills, problem-solving, and language development.
4. Role Playing
Role-playing and dramatic play centers are fantastic ways to encourage friendship building. Teachers can set up role-play activities as part of a lesson or be impromptu while children play in different classroom centers.
Children can act out situations themselves or use puppets, dolls, or other toys. Role-playing provides children with opportunities to practice essential social skills in a safe and supportive environment.
Role-play can be done in school, or parents can engage in role-play at home to help build their child’s social and imaginative skills.
5. Use a Daily Greeting
A daily greeting as part of a morning circle or welcome helps students learn each other’s names and encourages all students to share and participate. An excellent way to include a daily greeting is through a question of the day.
The day’s question could be related to the lesson or unit your class is studying, an upcoming holiday, or something about the classroom. Each student should be encouraged but not forced to answer the question.
Teachers should write the answers on a dry-erase board or large easel paper so children can view similarities and differences. When possible, it should be open-ended to promote more extended responses.
- What is your favorite animal, and why?
- Where is your favorite vacation spot?
- Do you have a food you hate? Why do you dislike it?
- How many people live in your home? Who are they?
- What is something you do well?