Helping Young Children to Make Friends
The friendships your child chooses will depend on various factors from their age and level of development to their own individual personality traits. Just like adults, some children are very socially oriented and prefer to have lots of different friends, while others prefer a few close companions. Differing social preferences are perfectly normal, but it’s good to ensure that your little one is learning to foster some healthy and balanced relationships with their peers.
Friendships for Under Twos
Before the age of two, our little learners are still so busy exploring the world around them that they have not yet developed the language skills or emotional understanding to form complex or meaningful friendships. Young children are starting to learn about relationships though, and they can observe and respond to certain behaviours, like empathy. In a group setting, such as a childcare centre, children will play alongside one another even if they are not interacting directly. This parallel play is very important and will help young children to form their first bonds and friendships with other children.
Try to encourage positive experiences of socialising by greeting friends and caregivers with a cheerful “hello!” and perhaps a little wave. Young children will pick up on these social interactions and it will assist them as they begin to meet and greet more people.
After the age of two, our little learners begin to excel in their language development and communication. This is when playtime naturally becomes more creative and cooperative, and children start to bond with one another through interactive play and shared interests.
This is a great time for children to start making friends in a safe and inclusive setting, such as the childcare centre, or on an organised playdate. If you are hosting a playdate be sure to plan some fun activities that don’t involve any toys that your child might struggle to share, and support their play by stepping in with ideas whenever needed. It is best to start with an hour or two at first, as your little ones get used to the emotional demands of being patient and ‘entertaining’ one another.
School Ready Friendships
By the school-ready age of four or five, our intrepid little learners are well on the way to forming more complex friendships and lasting bonds with their peers. By this age, most children have a good idea of the things they really like and enjoy doing, and they will seek out social relationships that support those interests. Some children may like to build things together, paint together or race around together. Some may even recognise cooperative friendships where one likes drawing shapes, for example, and the other likes colouring them in.
At this crucial social development age, we are bound to also see some conflict. Help your child to understand that it is good to be kind and aware of others, but it doesn’t mean they have to be good friends with everyone and it’s perfectly normal to meet people who may not like the same things, or who may not want to be friends.
Continue with things like playdates or small gatherings, but do not assume that your child will always want lots of friends around them, every child is different. Some children will need more practice than others with taking turns and sharing things, but some age-appropriate structured activities should ensure that no one gets left out.
At the Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare centres in NSW, your little learner will have great fun getting to know the other children in their ‘room’.Our rooms are designed to cater to each specific age group, and our fun activity-based curriculum encourages natural bonding and socialisation through play.