Learning how to be a good friend involves body language skills, basic friendship skills such as offering to help or share, as well as conversational skills. These skills do not come easy to all children.
Kids need to learn the words to say to enter into a group of children already playing, to know how to invite others to play with them and/or to know how to settle problems that arise when they are playing with other children.
Starting school and making friends can be challenging for young children. Try the tips below to help them on their way.
1.Teach children how to join in play
Role-play how to join in a game:
Pretend you are part of a group of kids playing and show children how to join in by saying, What are you playing? How do I join the game? rather than, Can I play with you? which can result in a quick, “no” reply. Talk about body language. What did my face look like when I asked? Did I smile?
Anxiety BC has a wonderful document outlining in-depth the steps for using role-playing to learn social skills. Check it out here…
2. Read friendship stories
Read stories about other children or storybook characters making friends. Talk about what the characters in the stories say and do to solve their friendship dilemmas and how the children can try to do the same.
3. Role play and use puppets
Role play to show facial expressions, body language and words that invite or repel friendship. After each short skit, discuss what the person’s face looked like and what their voice sounded like. Did they make the other children want to be a friend? Children seem to remember silly skits.
Demonstrate with puppets being bossy and aggressive, as well as too shy. Act out being annoying by poking, asking the same question repeatedly, and grabbing toys.
Role play ways to encourage friendship as well. Show positive actions such as smiling, sharing and helping and how those actions make the children feel.
4. Group small numbers of children for activities
Grouping smaller numbers of children together for activities can be less overwhelming for some. Say the names of the children and show them (not just tell) the activity before leaving them to learn together. If a child seems really shy, match her/him with one child until she/he seems more comfortable.
5. Play games to help children learn each other’s names
Often children do not learn each other’s names quickly. In my early days of teaching, I assumed the kids would remember each others’ names after the first week or two. At the end of October, I was surprised to hear children using sentences such as, “That boy over there with the red shirt…”.
Play games that reinforce learning names.
- Have a small group of children sit in a circle. Call out a name and have the child with the ball roll it to the child whose name you said. Repeat.
- During attendance have each child tell you the name of the person sitting on their right.
- Make a class book called, “These are my new friends”. Each child makes one page, drawing themselves and taping in a photo, as well as completing the frame sentence by adding their name. ____ is a new friend. Read it often. If the children’s printing is unrecognizable, the teacher prints it underneath in big letters.
6. Teach children that friends make mistakes
Young children change their friends often, depending on what happens each day. If yesterday’s friend will not share a toy today, children say they aren’t friends anymore. They need to learn that all friends make mistakes and that friends will not always agree with them or do what they want them to do.
Have children create a, Making Friends One Day at a Time, student book
A free copy of the printable, Making Friends One Day at a Time, book is available when you sign up to be on the mailing list for this site. The posts listed at the bottom of this page accompany the free student download.
You will find suggestions for helping students make friends as well as:
- instructions for the free student recording sheets
- books to read
- games to play
- songs to sing
- a daily student book activity
Friendship Unit Posts:
To get a FREE printable copy of the, “MAKING NEW FRIENDS ONE DAY AT A TIME”, student book pages, join the mailing list by adding your first name and email to the form above. Once you’ve done that, you will get another email with the link to download the booklet pages.