While some children find it easy to make friends, others may find it challenging. The earlier children are taught social skills, the better because they’ll need them throughout their lifetime.
Friendship activities are the building blocks to teaching about the importance of friendships. They can be incorporated at home or in the classroom. Read on for inspiration on incorporating activities that build friendship skills.
What makes a good friend?
A good friend makes you happy, plays with you, and shares toys with you. Your good friend will listen to you, and you’ll help each other. A friend will tell you when you have done or said something to hurt them so you can apologize. Likewise, when your friend hurts you, they’ll also apologize, as good friendships go both ways.
Why is having friends important for children's development?
Good friendships are essential for a child's development because this is how they learn to share, cooperate, and resolve conflict. Friendships can also help children develop a sense of belonging as they connect with other children, and this can boost their self-esteem as they continue to grow. These are all vital skills needed for children to thrive throughout their lifetime.
Friendship activities for preschoolers
Children naturally learn through play; therefore, incorporating play into teaching how to make good friends will ensure the lessons stick. Here are some friendship activities to incorporate into your classroom.
Record various sounds in and around the home or class, such as a lawn mower, dog barking, or typing on a keyboard, and then have the children identify the different sounds when you play them back to them.
This activity will encourage active listening from the children, which can then be transferred to their friendships. Use this opportunity to teach children that a good friend listens to one another just as they listen to the sounds being played.
Sharing among children can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. As children grow, they begin to recognize that some items belong to them and thereby have a natural protectiveness over them.
However, since they’re already sharing their environment, the trick is introducing other elements into that shared environment so they understand that other things can be shared too.
An example can be setting toys or a large palette of paint amid a group of children painting. This allows them to work independently while simultaneously sharing the resources available.
Alternatively, if two or more children like the same toy and want to play with it simultaneously, you can set a timer so they can take turns with it. This way, children will learn how to share with each other.
One way to teach friendship skills in preschool is by encouraging children to get to know each other. This can be done by asking and sharing their names. You can encourage this activity with the children through roleplaying. For instance, ask one child, “What is your name?” and then turn to the other child and ask the same.
Come up with varying scenarios and practice how to go through them together. For example, what to do when they want a toy that another child is already playing with, or what to do when another child is mean to them. This will give your children more confidence when they face these situations. If they forget, always be gentle and give subtle prompts to remind them.
Reading books about friendship
There are several children’s books that teach about the importance of being a good friend. As you read the stories, pause and discuss what the characters are going through, how they handle themselves, and the situations they face. This is an excellent opportunity to give life lessons on friendship.
Ask the children whether there is anything they would have done differently had they found themselves under similar circumstances, and then guide or encourage them depending on their answers.
Friendship bracelets will never go out of fashion, and for this activity, you'll need beads and a sturdy string. Here is a simple tutorial to get started. Making friendship bracelets will also help develop children’s fine motor skills as they string the beads, strengthen their concentration skills, and engage their creativity.
Sharing snacks is another fun way to teach children the importance of sharing and how it relates to friendship. Ask families to send their children with enough snacks to be shared with the entire class and host a snack party where each child shares the snacks they brought.
Show and tell
Have children bring their favorite item, such as a toy, book, stuffed animal, or game and have them take turns telling the others about their item and why it’s special to them. You can do this in pairs or as a group. This activity encourages children to learn more about each other, listen when others are speaking, and take turns.
For this activity, you’ll pair the children up and give each pair a flash card of an item they should find as a team. This is a great activity for the children to build the skills needed to work together as a team. Scavenger hunts often get children talking, interacting, and sharing.
You’ll need some flashcards for this activity. Make sure that there are enough cards for every child in the group. Hand out the cards to all the children and then instruct them to walk around looking for another child with the same card. They’ll link hands and wait until everyone else has found their partner with the same card. This is a great way to build new friendships and pair up children for other games later.
For more activity ideas and tips on how to meaningfully engage families, download our calendar template for early education programs.
Friendship is an important concept for preschoolers to learn and one that will continue to play a big role in their lives as they grow. By incorporating friendship activities into your lessons, you will help children develop crucial social skills like relating to others, sharing, listening, and taking turns.
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