Watching your child play happily with their buddies is something every parent hopes for. Some children have a natural ability to make friends and socialize, but other children need a little help. Just as you can help your toddler to get ready for going to daycare, or teach them safety skills that they need to know, you can prepare them for making friends. Here are some practical things you can do to help them.
‘Make-A-Friend’ Role Play
Even for adults, one of the hardest parts of facing a room full of strangers is knowing how to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before. A simple way of helping your toddler overcome this challenge is to engage them in a ‘make-a-friend’ role play. A few rounds of pretend-pretend will help them get used to introducing themselves and practice carrying a simple toddler-level conversation. You start first and show them how it’s done.
- Remember to keep it low-key and fun. Don’t be scared of silliness.
- The goal is to let them practice and gain confidence, not getting it ‘right’.
- You can include a few minutes of role-playing throughout the day in between other activities.
Welcome To My House
It’s easier to make friends when you focus on the other person, but what happens if your mind goes blank when faced with someone new?
The house technique is a simple tool to use that will help you remember what conversation-starting questions you can use. It is easy to adapt to something easy for your toddler to use. Imagine a house in your mind. Each part of the house is linked to a conversation starter in a way that is easy to remember.
When you walk up to a house, what’s the first thing you see? A welcome mat!The welcome mat is your greeting. Hello, hi, howdy… what comes most naturally to your toddler?
As you step off the mat, you walk through the front door. This is the name-trade. “My name is … what’s yours?”
When you get to the living room with couches and places for many people to sit, this can cue the question ‘how many brothers and sisters do you have?’ or ‘how many friends do you have?’
The television in the lounge can trigger a goldmine of conversation around favorite (or worst!) shows and movies.
Windows are a reminder of outside and inside, both have a strong connection to play. ‘Do you like to play outside or inside?’ ‘What’s your favorite outside/inside game?’
The kitchen is linked to food which is a fun way to find common ground. ‘Do you like pizza?’ ‘What’s your favorite chocolate?’ ‘I hate veggies!’
- Adapt the questions to your toddler’s level and life experience.
- Relate the focus areas to your actual home. You can physically walk through the sections and chat about what each refers to.
- If you are crafty, you can create a cardboard home with loose sections that your toddler can assemble as you chat about what each represents.
Teach Your Child To See And Hear
There’s an old saying that says to have a friend, you must first be a friend.
Gently teach your child to look for the lonely ones who have no friends, to seek out the children that everyone else is passing by. Talk with your toddler about times they’ve felt lonely or left out. Ask them what made them feel better. Gently plant seeds of caring for others by modeling it for them yourself. Listen when they are speaking to you and they will learn to listen to others.
- There is no better way to teach your toddler than to lead by example. It is a fact that much behavior management is modeled. They will grow up doing what you do, so think about what kind of friend you’d like them to become and model it.
Caught Or Taught?
Helping your toddler to make friends seems like a small part of the big scheme of literacy, numeracy and all the other important things they need to learn at school. Yet being socially well-adjusted is a foundational life-skill that they will carry with them throughout their school years, into work life, and their own families one day.
The fun and friendly atmosphere at Parkland Children’s Academy creates a safe place for toddlers to make friends and learn all the social skills they need.