Social Relationships

It is through learning to cooperate with others that children begin to develop friendship skills.  When children develop friendships, it helps them have higher self-esteem and lessens feelings on loneliness and sadness.  Friendships help children to learn skills related to not only social and emotional development but communication and cognitive development.  Research shows that teacher-child relationships can also significantly influence a child’s overall wellbeing.

     A word of caution; sometimes children form bonds that are so tight that they exclude other children.  This behavior needs to be watched closely as it can become the beginning of bully like behavior.  Words can be hurtful and it is not acceptable in school to say hurtful words.  Teach the children to call each other by their name.  When you hear a child name calling you can say’ “Her name is ____ and that’s what you may call her”. We need to teach children that exclusion in their play is hurtful.   That our centers are made to hold a certain amount of children and anyone is allowed to play so long as they follow the rules.

     An important role of teaching in the early years is to let children be who they are.  Not all children are outgoing and in want of many friendships.  Some children are happy having only a few close friends.  It is not about quantity but quality in building friendships.  We must respect children’s individual personality and help them build upon self-concept, self-control, and cooperation skills that are needed to develop true friendships.  When dealing with shy children a teacher can help a child enter a play situation with encouragement and gentle coaching.  And remember, children really do learn by example so be mindful on how you interact with others.

Ways you can help develop friendships in the classroom

  • Use invisible support; call on a child who you are confident will model a skill appropriately before calling on a child who will need more support.
  • Plan activities that require role playing, cooperating, listening, and taking turns.
  • Allow blocks of time that is unstructured into your daily schedule.
  • Help your children to develop emotional literacy.
  • Call the children your friends.  “Come on friends, let’s get our coats on to go outside”.
  • Remind children that if they cannot say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
  • Gives a thumbs up across the room when you see a child do an act of kindness.
  • By using Let’s statements you are teaching the children to organize their play to include others.
  • Model what friendship looks like using puppets.
  • Encourage play that requires two or more people (sharing an easel for painting, parachute play, dramatic play community helpers, simple games, floor puzzles).
  • Use meal times and small group times to have children practice asking for an item.
  • At group times, talk about friendly play you saw happening in the day.  Especially remark upon a child who has a more difficult time developing friendships.  (I saw Amar ask Kendra if she could help build with the magnet blocks today and they built a great rocket ship together.)
  • Give a piece of new equipment to a shy child to explore, it will help draw others to them.
  • Find ways for children to work in pairs, which you have purposely put together by interests, ESL-English, abilities, or boy and girl. 
  • Bring a blanket to the carpet.  Have the children take turns hiding under while another child hides their eyes.  Have the group repeat, 1,2,3, who can it be?  And the child whose eyes were hidden tries to name the child under the blanket.
  • Make sure to greet and speak to each child using their name.
  • Add two telephones to the dramatic center so children can “call” one another.
  • Use 2 funnels attached to a length of hose between two nearby centers.  This is like the old fashioned can & string phones.
  • Talk about all the different personal at your school.  Learn their names and what they do.  Stop and say hello to them, write thank you notes, or wave as you pass by their offices.
  • Make families feel welcomed and important.
  • Make cakes using play dough and add small pieces of pipe cleaners for candles.  Take turns singing Happy Birthday to each other.
  • Take a picture of each child and attach to a Popsicle stick.  These can be used as puppets.
  • Make cards and letters anytime you hear about a child having a family event (birthday, new baby, grandparent visit).
  • Note children being good friends during transitions.  (I liked the way you shared in the blocks today, I like how you let ___have a turn with the tricycle).
  • Use graphs so children can see whom else shares in their opinion.  (Favorite food, shower or bath, thing to do outside).
  • Dollhouse and people for family play.
  • Take a full body shot of each child.  Cut it in half.  Mix up the tops and bottoms.  The children look through and match to make a friend whole.
  • Pictures of the children on the wall.
  • Children’s names labeled throughout the room.
  • Games and rhymes using children’s names.  (,
  • Catrina, Catrina how are you?  Who is sitting next to you?
  • 2,4,6,8, who do we think is great?  Clap out syllables of name.
  • Sung to Are You Sleeping?  Friends at school, friends at school ________together, _______together.  Friends at school ________together all day long, all day long.
  • We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.  We’re following the leader wherever she/he may go.
  • We will pass this show from me to you to you, we will pass this shoe and that’s just what we’ll do.  Start with one shoe, and then add another.  See how many shoes you can keep going around the circle without having a pile-up. 
  • Sung to Mammy’s Little Baby.  Everybody do this, do this, do this.  Everybody do this just like _______.  Let the children take turns choosing different large muscle movements to do.
  • There is a child in our room, can you guess his/her name-o?  __ ___ __ __ ___, __ __ __ __ __, __ __ __ __ __, yes __________ is his/her name-o.