Share the Dream That All Children Can Be Friends

Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

By Beth Pinyerd

All this week, we are reflecting and honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. The truth that Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that all children would be friends is a concept that young children truly want to know and do.

They want to lovingly embrace this dream. In teaching young children on the treasure of making friends, I teach them a little song of truth that I learned as a child in Girl Scouts: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, and the other is gold”.  When young children begin to discover the joy of friendship, their world opens up to new relationships and socialization skills. As we reflect on Dr. King’s life, we see that he stressed to us to share and care for each other. What a wonderful world we would have if everyone took time to share what they have with others. To meet the needs of others with food, material items or time — to listen to others — are lessons that we need to teach our young children.

In total developmental honesty, when working with young children we must realize that it is very hard for most of them to share. Each child is different and unique in personality and character traits. Teachers and parents observe that some children will share without being asked or taught this. But for most children, being able to share is very hard. To understand this, we must realize that a very young child’s identity is locked into what they have such as a teddy bear, doll and other toys.

When looking at developmental stages of children such as toddlers, two’s and three’s, think more of their needs. Whereas children who are 4 years old or older begin to really understand what it means to share. Children who are 5, 6, 7 and 8 learn the importance of sharing and cooperating with other children. Be sure to praise your children when they share with other people, whether it be in the family or friends. Hug, verbally encourage and let them know that you are happy when they share.

 Being able to share as a young child leads into being able to make friends and being a friend. Of course, a lot of this depends on the age of your child.  When your children are really 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, stuffed animals, model cars, etc., teaches them how to interact with other children. If older siblings are in the family, they can assist their parents in role playing with their younger siblings.

Listen closely to your child when they speak of children they may like to play with at school or preschool. With young children, in teaching them social interaction and how to relate to other children, start with one or two children your child might like to play with. Check with these children’s parents 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 or enjoying a favorite snack together. With young children, they are so happy with just the simple things. Too, the main issue you are focusing on is having your young children to get along with other children. I personally remember in having one child, friends were always in our home to provide socialization for our young son. It is such a wonderful relationship for parents of young children to come together. Our community is so family friendly.   

With very young children it is necessary for parents to quietly oversee the play of young 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. Young 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 on 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.  Too, 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

Classroom Observer


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