SOCIAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT – Who is your best friend now? What do you do together? What are the things that make you friends?
Who was your best friend when you were a child? Are you still friends? How did you become friends?
These are usually easy questions. So easy that they are sometimes asked as security questions on the internet accounts.
But making friends is not always so easy for everyone. It is a skill and some have it and some don’t. Some people make friends easily and quickly. They have lots of friends. Some people are loners and don’t make friends so easily. They only have one or two friends: maybe close and maybe not so close.
As a preschool teacher how do you transfer your skills, knowledge, and abilities to help that shy child connect enough to be “chosen”. (Can you imagine that feeling when everyone else gets picked for the team and one child stands and waits to be picked and continues to be left out and overlooked.)
I got many of these tips from the Head Start website.
Tip 1 – Encourage, support, and develop your leaders. They are the friend-makers. They know the social rules and how to manage others.
Tip 2 – Give little bits of responsibility and leadership to your strong followers. They want more, so give them more to handle but make sure to give them direction and support. Especially give everyone a job, even obscure ones so that everyone does something every day for the group as a community:
- Meteorologist (weather person).
- Playground Supervisor (in charge of getting the water, first aid kit and other playground equipment that will be going outside).
- Friendship Foreman (accompanies children from the circle to the choice area and helps them enter play).
- Naptime Manager (helps put out the cots and accompanies the child to his/her cot to get comfortable) – always using a child’s name.
- Classroom Greeter (meets, greets, shakes hands (if permissible) with visitors to the room.
- Friendship Locator (Make several pairs of binoculars with toilet paper tubes. Ask a child to go around during center time and look for children being friends and report back to you. Share the observations in large group after center time is over.
Tip 3 – When assigning classroom jobs, give two children each job so that they have to work together to inspect centers, pass a snack, or do whatever the duty is.
Tip 4 – In certain table activities, assign a child to be in charge of that activity for the day. When other children come to the activity, that child in charge must explain the activity to their friend and help them complete the activity.
Tip 5 – Give choices in everything to everyone. Making a simple decision leads to feeling in control enough to move forward and take initiative.
Tip 6 – Partner a shy child with a more outgoing child to help learn the necessary social skills. This is called the buddy system. Caution – if you see too much domination, switch them.
Tip 7 – Model empathy. Also, how to be a friend in asking for help.
Tip 8 – Refer to the children as “friends” and each child by name. Encourage children to learn each other’s names and use them.
Tip 9 – Play group games like Bluebird, Bluebird Through My Window; Ring Around the Rosie; London Bridges; How Do You Do My Partner; Little Sally/Tommy Walker, etc. which relies on children holding hands and cooperating and taking turns. By the way, have the “it” child select a friend for the next turn.
Tip 10 – Identify certain items in centers that require children to help each other, like taking a dollhouse off a shelf, moving the car garage, or feeding the class pet. Explain to children that it takes two friends to do these things.
Tip 11 – Play “There’s Somebody in the Box” to help children learn each other’s names. Take a large box and cut out the back for easy in and out. Hide one child in the box while the others have their eyes closed. Sing this song to the tune of Farmer in the Dell: “There’s somebody in the box, oh who do you think it could be? We’ll take a guess, we’ll try our best, and then we’ll peek and see.” Have the children see if they know who is missing? Great for the beginning of the year!
Tip 12 – Start morning meeting time by having children move around the carpet greeting each other as if they are princes and princesses. Make sure they make eye contact and speak to each other. Help them get creative. They can give each other a hug (if permissible), use a “royal” accent, bow and curtsy, etc. Vary the character to match your theme. The children can act like the president, a grandma or grandpa, a superhero, a cowboy, a firefighter, and more.
Tip 13 – Give children Bingo boards with children’s names or pictures. Make a game of playing with at least three different people during center time.
Tip 14 – Bring toys that require two or more people, like a wagon or toss and catch game.
Tip 15 – Make a “Friendship Board” on a bulletin board in your classroom. Take pictures when children are working together on something or playing together and put them on the wall.
Tip 16 – Practice partner dancing during music and movement at least once a week. This helps the children work on the different rhythms expressed by other children and synchronize their bodies. It also helps them tune into another child’s body, which is imperative for children to be able to do when noticing emotions in other people.
Tip 17 – Remember the stages of play and recognize when children are in each stage so you can have reasonable expectations.
- Unoccupied Play
- Solitary Play
- Onlooker Play
- Parallel Play
- Associative Play
- Cooperative Play