empathy,  friendship,  social emotional

Building and celebrating friendships

The major focus of preschool is all things social emotional.  Learning how to build friendships, express empathy, and take another’s perspective are lessons that take time and practice.  While many of these lessons are organic – happening throughout the day as a natural part of your routines – they can also be planned intentionally.

When you’re trying to encourage friendships, it helpful to spend time making sure that children know each other really well.  When a child can say “I have a brother, just like you” or “My favorite food is pizza too!” They start to form bonds over these similarities.  Here are some fun ideas for helping children get to know each other:

  • Do show and tell or show and share.  Pick one day each week that children can bring in their favorite things to share with each other .  Set a theme for each week and leave plenty of time for the children to explore the items that their classmates brought in.  These items can spark many conversations, and great memories too!
  • Make lists of things that you know about each child.  Chose one child each day and have the other children help you make a list of all of the things that they know about him or her.  They can be facts, like “she has blue eyes” observations, like “He spends a lot of time in the block area” or “She always brings oranges in her lunch” or they could be character traits, like “He likes to make people feel better when they’re sad.”  This will give the specific child a little confidence for the day, and remind the rest of the class how much they already know about their friend. 
  • Make a list of things that you want to know about each other.  This is a perfect follow up activity to the list of things that you already know.  have the children think of things that they would like to learn about each other, or that they would like to ask each other about.  This is a really good way to encourage the children to learn more about each other, while also modeling an appropriate way to ask for more information. It also gives the child who gets to answer all of the questions an opportunity to be the expert by sharing information about themselves. 
  • Make all-about-me photo albums.  Ask families to bring in photos of their child’s favorite things, and put together a photo album for each child.  The children can share them with each other as they learn more about each other.  
Learning about each other’s favorite things helps children to see others as real people with likes, feelings, and wants of their own.  This is how children begin to understand empathy.  
What are your favorite friendship building activities? I’d love to hear all about them!

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