Making friends and learning how to manage social interactions is a huge part of the learning process for young children. Last week, I wrote about how children of different ages interact with one another, and what they learn along the way.
Although it’s a process of self-discovery, there are things you can do to help improve your child’s social skills and give them more opportunities to make friends — regardless of whether they are outgoing or more reserved:
Work on building social skills
Help your child develop the skills they need to make friends. Participate in activities and play games that involve sharing, role-playing, or taking turns. This not only gives them confidence in new social situations, but also teaches them about teamwork, co-operation, and patience.
Respect your child’s personality
Like adults, some children love being around people 24/7, while others may find it overwhelming and tiring. Pushing kids into social situations too quickly or often can make them anxious and stressed. Follow your child’s lead and arrange social activities according to their personality and social style. Ask them what activities they would like to participate in.
Go where the kids are
It’s important to give your child opportunities to socialize with others their age. Find activities or programs that are age-appropriate, at their social skill level (one on one, small group, large group etc.) and focused around their interests.
If your child is not in a child care program or school yet, there are still plenty of ways to meet new kids. Join a playgroup, sign up for a program at a community centre, drop in for free programs at YMCA Ontario Early Years Centres, find a story time program at the neighbourhood library, or head to an indoor or outdoor playground.