SOUTHERN CAPE NEWS - Did you know that socialising is one of the most complex skills children will learn? Being around peers, children witness and practice important social skills, such as cooperation, compromise, and healthy competition.
Such relationships also give children feedback on how they are doing compared to others and contribute to the growth of their self-image.
Six ways early friendships benefit your child
- The seeds of friendship are planted very early in life. Babies can recognise another being of similar stature from the age of three months, but infancy-peer interactions are usually limited to brief greetings or touches.
- Research has also shown that, from the age of six months, babies become aware of other children around them. At this stage, parents are encouraged to be responsive to their baby’s body signals to show them when she has had enough interaction.
- Between the ages of one and two years, children start making more direct contact with each other. They will try to imitate each other through play, and will do ‘funny’ things to draw attention to themselves.
- As your child’s thinking skills, ability to take others’ perspective into consideration and her communication skills develop, pretend play emerges. She can now create imaginary situations and pretend an object is something other than it is.
- Friendships mean peer relations with one or more special playmates, but for a three-year-old, the concept of a friend is not as extensive as for a school-aged child.
- Toddlers use their friendships to learn more about similarities and differences and are fascinated that they have things in common with others. Joint activities build the foundation of friendships and this creates the opportunity for children to decide whether they prefer a specific activity or friend, which is an important step in developing social skills.
How you can help your child make friends
Organise play dates
If your little one is not attending a nursery or playgroup on a regular basis, you can start introducing her to new friends by arranging regular playdates. Invite three or four friends and even older children (preschoolers), as young children may learn new skills from them.
Top tip: Make sure to supervise the little ones, as older children may play a bit rough for the likes of the smaller children. Don’t interfere unnecessarily – give them space to explore their surroundings and themselves.
Don’t stretch it
Timing is everything when it comes to kids. Avoid arranging play dates late in the afternoon as you may end up with a group of cranky kids the later it gets. Playtimes shouldn’t be longer than 90 minutes. But 45 minutes should be enough for little ones. If the kids play well together, you could stretch the time a bit.
Make sure you provide the children with similar toys during playtime to prevent them from fighting about whose turn it is to play with a specific toy. If you don’t want them to play with toys, take them on an outing or just let them run around and play.