It’s an emotional time of year. A new term means a change of routine, new class and - yikes! - new people. Some kids take it all in their stride and buddy up almost instantly. For others, it’s all a bit more daunting.
So, in partnership with Happy Little Doers - makers of fun flashcards that help kids to (literally) get to grips with phonics, spelling, writing & arithmetic - we're delighted to share the wisdom of Camilla McGill: mum of four, former early years’ teacher, and founder of myparentingsolutions.com: a place to find online parenting courses and loads of other great resources for your and your family:
Children don’t start to form ‘proper’ friendships until well into primary school, but you can encourage them to think about other people’s perspectives & the qualities needed in friendship much sooner.
There are so many positive things we can do to help
Making friends can be as easy as falling off a log, or it can take a bit (or a lot) of effort. But first of all we need to manage our expectations and know our own children. Some are naturally more extroverted and drawn to socialising; others are more introverted and feel content in their own company, doing their own thing. Both are fine, but knowing your child means knowing what to expect.
Plan some playdates
If possible, find out the contact details of other children starting at the same school and arrange a meet-up. This could be a visit to the playground or an invite to your house. It’s better to have smaller meetups, rather than a big group, as that gives the children more of a chance to get to know each other. Or invite kids from your class as soon as you can, once term is in swing.
Role-play & conversation openers
To prepare your child ahead of time for a playdate - and for generally meeting new children – talk over a number of things:
- Tell them the name of the child they’re going to meet. Maybe some details about them if you know, like where they live or what they’re interested in.
- Practise friendly conversation openers, like: ‘Hi I’m Sophie, what’s your name?’. Then teach them follow-on questions, such as: ‘What’s your favourite thing to do or toy?’ or ‘Do you have a brother or a sister?’
I remember during the summer before my daughter started school, we did some role-play on conversation openers. At the end of the first day, when I collected her, she said: “Mummy I was so good at making friends. I said to that girl there: ‘Hello, my name’s Scarlett, what’s your name?’ And then we went to play on the climbing frame.”
Practise letting others choose and turn-taking. So rehearse saying: “You can choose what we play first”, “Ok, you had your turn, now it’s my turn” and, ‘Yes, it’s your go now”. You can do this in role-play with your child or you can demo it with their soft toys. Playing simple games, or alternating with you to do something fun like jump in a puddle, really helps develop their ability to wait their turn.
Try to see it from their point of view too. You can empathise with them that it’s hard to wait your turn, which will help them develop their own ability to be more considerate.
Tips for ‘helping playdates along’
Don’t assume that the children will naturally know how to play together. So, if they are coming to your house, pick out some games they could do together – ball games, water play, cars, dolls. Lay out a few things for them to choose from. They won’t necessarily know how to get started, so you might need to be involved at the beginning.
Don’t assume that the children will naturally know how to play together. So, if they are coming to your house, pick out some games they could do together – ball games, water play, cars, dolls.
A great icebreaker is ‘What’s in the bag?’. Get a small cloth bag, put a variety of mini objects in it and sit in a circle. Kids have to put their hand in, not peek and guess what it is they’re feeling. This is excellent for turn-taking and can be done in the park too.
A few words on shyness
Is your child timid around other children? Well, firstly, try not to refer to them as ‘shy’; using a label pre-defines them. Look at the positives of their natural inclination and express that to them: “You take your time to get to know other children. You don’t feel very comfortable jumping in to make friends. You’re happier playing by yourself at first and then, when you’re ready, you play more with others. That’s fine.”
‘Proper’ friendships & developing empathy
Children often don’t start to form ‘proper’ friendships until well into primary school, but you can encourage them to think about other people’s perspectives and the qualities needed in friendship much sooner.
Manage your own nerves
When your child is starting school, it can feel very nerve-wracking for everyone. We don’t want them to pick up on our anxiety, so be careful to be very positive about the whole thing. That doesn’t mean we brush their feelings under the carpet - on the contrary, we need to help them to express their feelings - but they don’t need to know if we’re anxious, as it makes it much worse for them.
If you need any more advice, please check out MyParentingSolutions.com. Or if you need any advice on fun game to play on playdate, the KIDLY Live Chat team would love to help and they're around 9am - 5pm every weekday. (Click that purple button bottom right.) And there's no better prep for school that feeling confident and ready to learn, so check out Happy Little Doers fantastic flashcards that'll have them learning through play right away - and loving every minute.
Three friends: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash