Making friends, especially if you are a toddler, is not always easy... some children are keen to have 'best friends', others go around in packs and some are simply not interested at all. When you ask who they played with a nursery and they say 'no one' it can be heart-breaking. But, we have to remember that some children are emotionally 'advanced' and understand the concept of having a friend; whereas others are more interested in playing along side another child with no interaction at all.
If your child is nervous of making friends or you want to gently encourage them to make some new friends, here are a few ideas for encouraging and guiding them. Friendship is an important part of all our lives and the importance placed on making friends in childhood is demonstrated by the fact that 'Forming Relationships' is part of the EYFS and is a focus of Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
Here are some tips on how you can help children make friends:
- Give them plenty of opportunity to make friends: see lots of people and do lots of different activities
- Give them lots of praise when they do something kind to another person
- Don't force them or try to make them form friendships with people they don't like even if you like them!
- Try not to interfere when they are interacting or playing
- Be bold and approach people at playgroup and get to know them yourself
- Lead by example, chat to people and make friends yourself
- Talk about being kind, sharing and being a good friend while you are at home
- Support any efforts to make friends even if they fail
- Look at photos of friends and chat about how much fun they can be
A great way to get children to care for and understand each other is to introduce younger children to the setting. Whether it be siblings or family or friends, seeing how a baby is cared for a loved by his or her mother can be very encouraging to children who don't have the experience of siblings and is a great way to teach love and respect by example.
See if you have a parent willing to visit with a new baby to show the children what they look like, what they do, and discuss the needs the baby has and how much love and care he or she needs.
Allow them to stroke the baby's hand or foot, taking care not to allow them too much access... and encourage them to be kind to the baby. If the baby cries, chat about what could be wrong and how we can stop the crying.
This teaches children to empathise with others and gives those without this experience of babies, a little more confidence around new babies. This kind of empathy at a young age may deter those who are inclined to bully others, because often the bully has no empathy with the child they tease or taunt. This begins to sow the seeds of thinking about others.
Looking at and watching a mother with her child, is also a very calming thing for the children to witness. They have someone to look up to who is not part of their normal surroundings and sees how adults act with children.
If possible, see if the parent and child will come in to visit on a regular basis to see the child's developments and how they grow over a year. Get the children drawing pictures of the baby or making the baby a picture or a rattle to hold when they get to that stage in their development. Handing over a home made gift is a great way to make the children feel very happy about their new little friend.
Children love playing games: it's fun, it's easy and it's a great way of learning without even knowing it!
Early on, games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake and other nursery rhymes form the basis of children's games. This is how the idea of games actually starts. The little ones laugh and smile and begin to understand cause and effect: ie. each time teddy pops out from behind the cushion, it will make them jump and they will laugh! It sounds simple, but it's an early form of game-playing.
They will then progress to all sorts of other games: easy box games, then number, colour and letter games and eventually board games. At each stage they are learning different things and experiencing different ideas. The notion of a winner and loser; the notion of practising at something to get better; the idea that you need to make an effort and try hard at something to then enjoy the feeling of doing well etc.
What are the benefits of playing games? Does it really help in any way other than passing the time?
- Patience and fair play: they can't interrupt or snatch when playing a game. They need to learn to take turns.
- Fine motor skills: moving counters, placing items on a board, balancing things on a horse. Most board games help improve fine motor skills.
- Sportsmanship: they should congratulate the winner rather than get stroppy at not winning!
- Gross motor skills: many outdoor games involving balls, hoops, balancing etc. help with gross motor skills.
- Develop relationships: playing games helps improve and develop relationships between families and friends. Laugh, play and chat about the game together and see how much fun you all have!
- Thinking: as they play games, young children will begin to learn strategy - high dice rolls mean moving further, which squares to avoid because they have penalties etc.
- Keep games easy and short at the start. Don't make it too complicated or long winded.
- Don't let them win all the time! It is tempting but does them no good in the end.
- If they look tired or bored don't force them. Make games fun, not a chore.
- If ever they ask to play a game with you, try to say yes! They need as much encouragement and support as you can give.
- Try to play enthusiastically. You may not be in the mood to play, but try to make the games fun!
Sending your child to a childminder or nursery may actually help them in later life, according to a recent study. Many working parents hesitate before sending their children to a carer, wondering how the separation will effect the child in later life. However, according to one academic it does them good to be away from home for a few hours! So, parents working long hours need not worry. Mothers returning to work, need not feel guilty!
The Professor in charge of the study claims that those children who were in a cared for environment aged 2 and under, do actually go on to form better relationships later on when at school. She said that nursery does the vast majority no harm at all. Previous studies had concluded that children who were not at home most of the time when under 2 turned out to be more agressive when attending school, were more difficult to disipline and more inclined to be naughty and lead others astray. But this new research disputes that, stating that this doesn't appear be the case.
The study followed 3,000 children over a 14 year period from 1996. Parents have welcomed the findings, many of whom had believed earlier studies which suggested that there was a link between attendance at a nursery and aggression in later life, plus impaired social skills.
Of course, there are various ways of ensuring your child is in the best possible setting. Speak to other parents - get their opinion and recommendations. Check thoroughly the standards of care whether it be a nursery or childminder. Drop in, unannounced, and see what is going on!
What makes children happy - a new toy, a bar of chocolate, a nice frilly dress? These things might bring immediate happiness, and a smile to their faces, but it's not these things that will make them into happy adults.
Despite the fact all of us want to be happy, and hope our children will be happy, there is not that much research on discovering the key to happiness. Psychologists tend to focus on how to make unhappy people less unhappy rather than how to make happy people even happier.
There is a line of study that focuses on positive psychology and the study of being happy. It has found that being rich does not necessarily make you happy and that those in very poor or deprived situations are not necessarily unhappy. It seems once we reach a certain level of income, no more money will make you any happier.
- More money leads to higher aspirations which cannot always be met which leads to a feeling of disappointment and unhappiness
- Jealousy: once you have more you see what others have and you are less happy with your own possessions.
Happy, secure relationships seem to be the once constant factor in happy people's lives. And, it is the relationship that children have with their parents that can be a deciding factor in their overall and long term happiness. Why? Because a good relationship can mean a child has higher self-esteem, has a positive view of the world and higher expectations.
When left with other people, a secure child may be upset when the parents leave but will easily be comforted after a short while and then will play happily. When the parent returns they will be happy to see the parent. An insecure child will be very upset and remain upset when a parent goes. On returning, the child will likely ignore or avoid the parent.
However, not all children will be doomed to an unhappy life if this is the case...but there is a link showing secure children are more likely to grow up with fewer relationship problems (with friends, spouses and their own children).
This is the idea that children know what they are good at and are pleased when their skill or achievement is noticed by others. They feel proud and happy that they have done well. This doesn't mean to say they should only be encouraged to be the best or do the best... instead they should be encouraged to try and have a go and be rewarded by undertaking an activity. They will play a game for the fun or it rather than only to win.
It has to be noted that genetics play a part in happiness. If your parents tend to be happy, then you will. This may be linked to the inherited personality traits (extroverts tend to be happier than introverts).
So, the best thing we can do as parents is to try to develop a good relationship with our children: encourage and engage with them to do activities and focus on tasks together and encourage and stimulate them as much as we can. ...and the odd chocolate button would be a nice treat too!