Making friends

  • Published on March 10, 2017

What many children look most forward to about school is playtime with their friends.

Learning how to be a friend, and how to make friends, is an essential ingredient in an early childhood classroom. Children’s socio-emotional development is perhaps more important than any other as their future happiness and success will depend upon it. Happy kids learn more easily than unhappy kids.

The importance of developing a warm, welcoming, supportive, inclusive classroom environment cannot be overstated. Many readilearn classroom management resources assist teachers with this, and I have previously suggested ways of helping children get to know each other, including using class surveys and the Me and my friends worksheets to discover their similarities and differences.

In this post, I suggest strategies that can be used to help children develop friendship skills.

Extend the hand of friendship

Making friends does not come easily to all children and it is necessary to make explicit what being a friend is, and is not. It is also important to teach children strategies for making friends and for being resilient if no friend can be found. Children need to know how to ask to join in a game and how to allow others to join in.

Frequent discussion and role play is important to developing life-long skills for making and being a good friend. If some children find role play itself a bit confronting, puppets can be used. There is no limit to how mean puppets can be. Children need to be aware of their own response to certain situations and to understand how others are feeling too. They need to learn to read and respond to the body language of others. Stories, poems, and songs can also be useful in stimulating discussion.

It is important to have strategies in place for welcoming new children to the class. Allocating a buddy or special friend (or friends) assists the newcomer feel comfortable while establishing friendship groups.

Incorporate games

Games are great for developing social and emotional skills and can be easily incorporated into maths and literacy groups, as well as other curriculum areas. Enjoyment of games requires children to get along, take turns, and share. They learn to be resilient when following the rules and accepting game decisions. They also learn to respond in positive ways to their own participation and the participation of others. The learning benefits of playing games is equal to or greater than the fun the children are having.

Having play equipment such as skipping ropes, balls, hoops, and sandpit toys available during breaks is also beneficial. Children are less likely to be bored and to engage in inappropriate activities if there are fun things for them to do. It is important to teach children how to use the equipment safely, in a friendly manner, and to be responsible for its return. Borrowing cards help to keep track of borrowers and items.

Teach strategies

It is important to teach children strategies, or reminders, they can use in the playground; such as the High-5 friendship reminders to:

And the High-5 resilience reminders to:

Children need to know how to respond when others are mean. They need to know when to shrug, walk away and find something else to do, or when to report. Bullying is never acceptable but not every tiff constitutes bullying.

Special days

This month has two special days for thinking about friendship, belonging, being inclusive, and mostly being kind to each other.

The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence falls on 17 March, next Friday, in Australia. The message of the day is that bullying is never okay. The Bullying. No Way! website has many useful resources for schools and communities, including some specific for early childhood.

Next week, on the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence I am interviewing Karen Tyrrell about her book Song Bird Superhero. Karen, an award-winning author and herself a survivor of bullying, writes stories to empower kids and help them develop resilience. I hope you will join me to hear what Karen has to say.

In Australia 21 March is Harmony Day, a day for celebrating our cultural diversity.

“It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.”

The website has great suggestions for ways schools and communities can get involved. In addition there are some early childhood lesson plans and activities here, and other printable resources for you to download and use here.

Existing readilearn resources that can be used to help develop friendship skills and teach about diversity, inclusion, and being kind to each other include:

me and my friends

How to make a friendship tree


extend hand friendship

A new resource Extend the hand of friendship is now also available. This resource provides suggestions for developing friendships skills, friendship acrostic poems and templates, and a friendship poster.

I hope you and your children enjoy using these resources. I’ll see you next week with an interview with Karen Tyrell about her empowering book for kids Song Bird Superhero. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

Register now to begin using free resources, or Subscribe for access to all resources.

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning,


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    Friendships are important to children as they develop and having a friendly environment in the classroom is important. I can’t recall that elementary schools in the US made that a priority, and I wonder if that allowed a rise in bullies at schools and changes to the school social environment. Thanks for highlighting both March dates. I like the supportive materials you’ve developed.

    Thank you, Charli. I wonder too. I think if children are encouraged to respect themselves as well as each other, there should be a decrease in bullying behaviour. I think a lot of it stems from a lack of respect.

    Such a great post Norah. The simplest of things can be overlooked when it comes to the importance of children forming friendships. <3

    That’s very true, Debby. It happens all too often. We tend to think they’ll just settle in and be all right, but it’s not always so. 🙂

    No it’s not. Also, it’s important to teach them about sharing, particularly when it comes to kids with no siblings. 🙂

    That’s also true. Sometimes it can be especially difficult for only children.

    For sure. I’ve seen it plenty. But I’ve also seen only children behave and share beautifully. Lots has to do with good parenting too. 🙂

    This is a wonderful post, Norah. I changed schools 14 times during my primary school years and it was very hard. I was always the new girl and always having to start over. It does teach you to get on with people and to be resilient. These lovely tips you have shared certainly would make it easier for a newby!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Robbie. I can’t imagine changing schools 14 times. We had seven years of primary school. I’m not sure how many you have, but for us that would mean changing schools twice a year. How unsettling that must have been. I think you have done remarkably well to have had such experiences. What was it, do you think, that kept you learning? So many children struggle because of all the extra energy required to cope with the changes. How great it is that you learned to get along with others and to be resilient. Did any of the schools have programs to help you settle in, or did you have to find your own way?

    “Learning how to be a friend, and how to make friends…” Easier said than done and I’m so glad you’ve addressed this. Thank you for sharing this and for these wonderful resources. 🙂 Also, appreciate the heads-up for the upcoming anti-bully and cultural diversity dates.

    Love the “high fives”.

    Hi Sarah, Thank you for popping by and sharing your wisdom. Making friends for many of us is definitely easier said than done. I was always the shy one, hanging out the back, not willing to put myself forward, unable to see what I had that others would be interested in. I know what it’s like to be that kid, so I do what I can to draw them out, show them what is likable and worthy in them. There are some for whom socialising is always more pain than pleasure, though, and they need to be shown an extra dose of respect and compassion.
    I’m pleased you like the high-fives. They are great reminders for kids (and adults), and can be tailored to suit any child’s particular needs. 🙂

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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