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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Thank you for reading.
Happy teaching and learning,
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