The first few days of the Play Adventures clubhouse has been nothing less than incredible.
Besides my three kids attending (aged 10, 6 and 3) we had two more 3-4 year old children and one more 6 year old. A small group based solely on parent volunteer and buy in that our children need a place to play, socialize and learn in this confusing time of change.
As the weather in Merced, California these days are hot we are often playing with water to stay cool. This interaction occurred on the very first day between three kids aged 3-4. They have all encountered one another before but never had any continuous play opportunities.
Their bathing suits were on as were the sprinklers. The kids together would run through the sprinklers laughing and screeching. KID A was watching the other two run through and occasionally would run through after on his own. KID B noticed this and yelled to kid A: "C'mon A, run with us"
Kid C yelled out: "Lets go guys"
All three kids ran through the sprinkler together laughing.
I am so proud to see interactions of this sort on the very first day of school. We know this may have been a special first encounter due to being locked up for 6 months, barely interacting with others their own age and being so excited but Ill take it!
Learning how to form positive peer relationships is a crucial skill for kids, one that will be learning and developing over the years. Friends enrich our lives, boost our self-esteem, and provide the moral support we need in critical moments.
As three and four year old children have not yet perfected the positive ways to interact, share, cope with emotions and make friends, I was happy to see we were at a good start. Knowing that even if this is a roller coaster ride- that some times kids will feel rejected and sometimes involved- learning to cope with these emotions and practicing through play is essential to their growth and development. They already possess positive and productive ways in which to make and keep friends- this is exciting news!
Practicing social skills through play is one of the easiest ways to learn. While parents, teachers or supportive adults, can not make friends for their children, they can help them develop and practice key social skills.
If you see your child struggling to make friends or getting rejected by other kids, here are some steps you can take to help:
Social skills don't come naturally to all children. Some kids have trouble taking turns or experience anger when forced to share. Some hover alongside the playgroups, unsure how to insert or assert themselves. Helping your children at home practice these tough scenarios could be helpful. Emphasize taking turns and understanding the difference between sharing and hogging and explain that friends expect the same good behavior. Role playing can be very helpful here. However, I believe with a supportive adult these interactions during real time play events will help most children feel more comfortable and be aware of how they prefer to interact over time.
One on one play dates may be helpful when the child could, in advance, pick out games or toys they may want to play with or use. The child with difficulty will feel more at ease in their own home. It is important to remember that just because your child may be more shy or tentative to make friends this is not a reason to keep them at home, secluded. Practice is the healthiest solution.
Every child is different and has different preferences. Some kids prefer to read alone, draw or play in a swing or watch and admire the clouds overhead. We have different temperaments and interests. Some kids are more shy and need alone time more than constant peer interaction. Don't place your own social expectations on your child. Your kids are fine, the way they are!