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Activities for Teaching Children to be Good Friends

teaching children to be good friends

One of the most important (if not THE more important) area in Early Education is Social Emotional Learning.I am a firm believer that by helping teach children self awareness, social awareness and healthy relationship skills we are helping them become functioning members of society… and who doesn’t want that?!

So, when it comes to teaching children to be good friends– it starts in our preschool classrooms. 

When I set out to be more intentional in teaching of social emotional skills, I decided to create whole group lessons for social emotional learning – I wanted easy to use and prep perschool Not to say that I don’t give social emotional support to students all day long when children are in need of it – because I totally do (and this is where I feel children learn the easiest- when the need is there).  But, I also found myself wanting to make sure our class was using the same verbiage, in a way that classmates could help each other through social situations. So, I decided to go forward with creating social emotional lessons for whole group time. 

The ‘Friendship’ skills that I decided to focus on include: 

  • How to make a friend
  • Including others when we play
  • Sharing and turn-taking
  • Having more than 1 friend
  • What a good friend looks and sounds like
  • How to show kindness to friends
  • How to listen to friends
  • How to apologize to friends
  • Recognizing problems that some friends have
  • How to talk out problems with friends
  • Ways to handle friend problems
  • When and how to ask for adult help with friend problem

Wow, when written out it is kinda crazy the amount of things that go into creating and maintaining a healthy friendship!

Teaching these things to young children can feel a little daunting.  But, I like to think about our teaching like just another experience they have collected. Every time we talk about, demonstrate or help children practice these skills it’s one more time they have practiced it and the more they learn and practice the easier these skills will become.

The How-to of teaching children to be good friends…

As stated before, I 100% believe the BEST way for children to learn needed social skills is in the moment.  These moments almost always happen during open play (whether inside or out) – yet another reason play is so powerful.

When teaching social skills as a whole group lesson, here are some things I do every time:

  • Read a book related to the lesson.  Books are relatable for children. Reading aloud first allows me to link back our discussion to things we read.
  • We sing – because singing is fun and it helps reinforce the message.
  • We discuss.  I ask questions. Children answer (sometimes on topic, sometimes not – you know!). I find myself guiding the discussion away from un-related topics by asking new questions.  I also try to allow enough time for discussion because sometimes – the kids really get into it.
  • We do a related activity.  Sometimes this is a set of scenarios that children can weigh in on. Sometimes this includes acting situations out or sorting scenarios.  We also create anchor charts with pictures that we hang on the wall that children can later reference.

Other details on what is working…

> At the beginning of the year, I found that students weren’t engaging in discussion as much as they seemed to later in the year.  So, at the beginning of the year I would focus on one of the skills (bulleted list above) each week. We would generally do the lesson one day a week. But, after the year has gone on and children can sit longer (and talk longer), I have found the need to break up the activities into two days a week. Day one we read and discuss. Day two we review discussion and do the activity.

> I have discussion questions written out that I go off of. My memory totally sucks.

> Watch for times to relate back to the social emotional lesson you did together.  See a child turn-taking without help? Point it out and relate it back to the shared experience of the lesson. Don’t be surprised if you hear children using the verbiage from the lesson later in play! (this is literally the best!)

Want to see the lessons I use?

You can see all the Social Emotional Lessons here.

Just looking for the Preschool Friendship activities?  Look at Unit 6 (Making Friends), Unit 7 (Being a Good Friend) and Unit 8 (Handling Peer Problems).

Social Emotional Learning Guide

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