Helping Your Child Make Friends 1

My fondest memories of preschool were with my best friend: drinking green punch, painting, tying our shoes. When my first started preschool, my hope was for him to make wonderful friends. But how does this happen?


Some kids make friends on their own. My elder child, now five, made his first friends before starting preschool, among children of my friends. Not all friendships thrived.  My son is shy and slow to warm, so took time to socialize. Sometimes, he didn’t mesh well with a kid that I thought he’d be great with, and instead bonded with another child.

Here are tips based on my Mom experience:

  • Schedule play dates with children of a similar age. Ask your child who he’d like to have over, or if you want more ideas, ask his teacher.

  • Pick different types of children, boy and girl. While I’ve found opposites do not attract, friends can be different. Not all boys are hyperactive, and not all girls play with dolls.

  • Try again. If the first play date falls flat, maybe they need more time to get to know each other. For example, schedule an activity that both like. One of our most successful play dates was for ice cream followed by the playground; the ice cream helped to break the ice.

  • Encourage your child to persevere. One boy in my son’s class wanted to be my son’s friend, but they had argued on the play structure, and my son holds a grudge. The boy kept trying, showing interest in my son’s building, and now they are close friends.

  • Do not interfere. Children are more likely to play together if you’re not hovering. Introduce the child to the area, and keep yourself distracted with a younger sibling, folding laundry or prepping dinner, something in arms reach but not too close.


What if your child doesn’t make friends on his own?

It might be time to facilitate the process if your child is in school, doesn’t have friends but doesn’t show interest in other children.  One of my favorite resources, Dr. Laura Markham, has great tips here about helping your four year old make friends on the playground and in this video about when your child isn’t making friends on the playground.

  • Start with your child’s teacher. Ask if there’s an issue, and for any advice on social skills your child needs to work on. The teacher can suggest children for play dates.

  • Consider a social skills group, which help children make friends. Some groups are for children with special needs, while others are for typical children or a combination of children who are typical and with special needs.

  • Practice before a play date by role playing or using puppets. Give example phrases to use, such as “what are you playing?” or “you’re a great builder.”

  • If your child isn’t in school yet, try enrolling in activities that meet on a regular basis with the same children. For introverts or shy children, it will take a few meetings to become comfortable with a new child.

  • If your child is in school but doesn’t seem to fit in, consider trying an extracurricular activity that he’d excel at.

  • Try a different gender. Girls of 4 to 6 years old can be catty with other girls, while boys can be more accepting.  Encourage your girl to try popular activities for boys, such as building. Or encourage your boy to make some girl friends.




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