Having friends to trust and rely on is important for our emotional wellbeing at every stage of life, but for little kids starting a new playgroup or school it is especially significant. Friends can provide a fun, supportive, and familiar atmosphere in a new environment, but they also enhance a child’s self-esteem and personal development. However, friendships can be difficult for kids to navigate, so how can we encourage them to feel confident in making new buddies?
If possible, it is best to start before their first day at school - by that point they will have enough to deal with, so try to get their social skills on track in advance. The most tried and tested route is to meet up with friends or members of your family who have children of a similar age. You can organise play dates, trips to the park, and days out further afield to exciting places like the zoo. Not only will the kids have a playmate, but you will get someone to talk to as well.
When you do not have a readymade set of friends with kids, local playgroups, baby massage classes, and various other parent centred activities are excellent ways to meet new people with similar aged children. At first it can seem slightly intimidating, especially if you do not know anyone, but after a few visits you will soon begin chatting to the regulars and establishing get-togethers outside of the group.
Bear in mind that for many younger kids friendship is a very fleeting notion, so do not worry if their relationships fizzle out. At this stage, their casual playmates are unlikely to remain lifelong friends, but it is all good training for later in life when they will be making the friendships that matter.
What do you think is the best way of encouraging friendships between young children?