Making friends in an important part of life! Some kids naturally make friends with everyone, while other kids need to learn some strategies and need to be coached along the way.
I attended a Parent Education night for my son’s preschool a few weeks ago and I loved many of the things that were shared about making friends and social coaching. Sue Dinwiddie, a former Head teacher from Stanford University’s Bing Preschool, was the presenter.
Social coaching is an important thing for parents to learn about! Oftentimes children are thrown into scenarios where they have the opportunity to make new friends. Many children don’t have the tools to navigate this social world and don’t take advantage of these opportunities.
Have you ever gone to an event and then thought as you left, “Well that was a waste of time, _______ just played by himself the whole time… He didn’t play with any friends. We could’ve just stay home.”
I totally have.
Sue shared some simple tips to help parents coach children in social settings and help them move from the solitary play mode (or playing with adults mode) to playing cooperatively with other children.
Here are 6 helpful tips for coaching your kids to play with other kids…
1. Help your child observe games being played amongst friends and notice rules.
If the children are role playing, observe the roles that each child has assumed. Point them out to your child. Help your child decide what role he/she could play.
For example. saying, “Do you see John and Sarah are playing superheroes. It looks like John is Batman and Sarah is Superman. They are taking turns jumping off the bench. What character could you be? What could you do?”
2. Approach friends (or new children) with your child.
Ask if you can play. They most likely won’t say no to an adult, right? Play with the group alongside your child for awhile and model for your child how to participate. Next time, prompt your child to ask if they can play.
3. Point out common interests/likes amongst the children.
Be a little friend matchmaker. Help them notice their friend’s similarities… sometimes little kids can be very oblivious.
4. Serve as a bridge between the children.
For example, you could start building a tower with blocks. Invite each child to take turns adding on to the tower… all of a sudden they’ve gone from complete solitary play to moving towards cooperative play!
5. Gradually recede into the background once the children start interacting with one another.
It is important to learn when to back off!
6. Give your child lots of opportunities for success by finding many ways for them to interact with peers.
I find that as I set up varied opportunities weekly for my kids to interact with peers (1:1 playdates, small group playgroups, large group parties/preschool groups, meeting new friends at the park, etc.), they are more comfortable playing cooperatively and initiating play with new children.
Do you have any other tips you would add?
You can check out a few of our other Parent Education posts below or visit our Becoming a Better Parent Pinterest board. It is filled with great articles to read!