Guiding young children to make friends

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By Beth Pinyerd

Classroom Observer

In teaching children on the treasure of making friends, I teach them a little song of truth that I learned as a child in the Girl Scouts: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, and the other is gold.”
When children begin to discover the joy of friendship their world opens up to new relationships and socialization skills. Of course, a lot of this depends on the age of your child.
When your children are real young and are having difficulty making friends with other children, you as a parent can role play with your child as you engage in activities and play with them. Being patient and letting them do a “pretend meal” for you or even playing dolls or teddy bears with them teaches them how to interact with other children.
Listen closely to your child on children they may like to play with at school or preschool. To jumpstart your child’s social interaction and learning how to play with others, check with parents of one to two other children and invite them over to play.
When inviting friends over, it is wise to plan activities such as going to the park, playing games outside or inside, viewing a favorite video and enjoying a favorite snack together. With young children, they are so happy with just the simple things. The main issue you are focusing on as their parent is having them learn how to get along.
With very young children, it is necessary for parents to quietly oversee the play of their friends, especially if it is their first time to play. As a parent, you don’t want to dominate or control their play but you mainly want to facilitate their play. Children depend on routine and familiar activities.
Try to do this in planning activities when a child comes over. Children perform and play well together when they know the routine and guidelines. I know in an early childhood classroom, children depend and adhere to a schedule.
Many of us as parents have to be a playmate ourselves in modeling how friends get along. Teachers and early childcare workers, do this with young children all the time. This allows us to oversee to see where struggles might be and then we can guide and help our children.
Children consider their pets to be their friends. They play for hours with their furry friends such as dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. For example, taking care of goldfish by feeding them as well as cleaning out their bowls helps to instill a sense of care and responsibility. Guiding children on how to take care of pets develops a sense of responsibility which is necessary in friendships.
With young children, remember play is their work even in friendships. One important truth to teach young children is that they are very special and so are the friends they have.
A treasured friendship for all of us young or old is like a rainbow promise. Isn’t it nice to be unconditionally loved by a friend? It’s better than a pot of gold!
Beth Pinyerd has taught young children in the Early Childhood Classroom for 34 years as well as outreaching to the elderly in intergenerational settings. She has taught and outreached in the schools in the Opelika Community and Baldwin County Community. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Child Development both from Auburn University. Her husband is the late Carl Pinyerd and she has one son, Gus Pinyerd who has taught her so much about learning. Classroom Observer is here to serve the community in sharing the wonderful teaching programs in our local public schools, private schools, and homeschools. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth, and families. Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures, and events by e-mailing her at donnapinyerd@att.net.

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