Friendship in Young Children

SONY DSCTasty Tuesday’s topic in May is “Friendship,” which is also the Museum’s centennial theme in May. At Boston Children’s Museum, we see a lot of positive interactions among our little visitors. For example, at the emergency exit at the top of the Climber, there are times when a child gets scared to climb down. Often, another child will come along and kindly reassure the other child and offer a hand so they can climb down together. I often ask their grownups if these children know each other, and many times the answer is, “No, they just met here in the Climber.”

These moments just make me smile. I absolutely love seeing children making new friends with each other while playing in the exhibits! Let’s think about your own friends and your child’s friends. Why are they so special?

  1. Babies make friends, too!
    It is a huge myth that infants and toddlers do not make friends. Although the concept of friendship may be different from what we typically consider as such, very young children definitely do make friends. Have you seen your baby trying to touch other babies’ faces? When you leave several babies crawling on the floor, you often see them trying to reach and grab at each other. The instant reaction is often to say, “No, don’t do that” and to remove your baby from the situation. However, curiosity about others is definitely a form of friendship, and it is a big brain building moment to learn that there are others who exist in the world.
  2. Lots of friends or a few special friends?
    Some children make a lot of friends while others make a few friends. Is one better than the other? Absolutely not! Children have different personalities and comfort levels. Instead of the number of friends your child has, the quality of the relationship your child has with his peers is far more important for your child’s social development. You can ask yourself questions like: Is the peer relationship positive? How is my child negotiating difficult moments, such as sharing toys?
  3. Grown-ups’ roles in building children’s friendship
    In order for children to develop positive peer relationships, they must feel safe in their primary family relationships. Positive interactions with family members build confidence and a sense of security to explore peer relationships. You also need to take your child’s temperament into consideration. Some children adjust easily to new people and situations, while others are slow to warm up. Both are normal. If your child does not want to talk to someone new at first, just let her warm up at her own pace. Hosting a play date at your home might help her adjust more easily – the familiar context will ease some of her uncertainty. When children experience some difficulties in their peer relationships, their trusted adults can be great advisors. However, children need to take the lead sometimes and navigate in their own social circles in order for them to gain independence and develop positive social skills.

2 Thoughts

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