Be Kind to Friends

For most young children, friendships come easily. We’ve all watched little ones make instant friends at the playground -- diving into a game before mom or dad reaches the park bench.

OK, so your child may not have any idea what that kid's name is, but she is playing nicely with him… until he steals her ball… and she pushes him -- time out.

New friends are a lot of fun, but they also introduce uncertainty and conflict. Help your child overcome these challenges by building empathy and practicing kindness. These skills can be nourished, and playtime is the perfect time to do it.

Try these games at home and help your child practice six friendly skills:

Say Hello

Gather some stuffed animals or action figures. Select one and hide it behind your back. Then ask, "Where's Bunny?" Slowly and shyly bring out the friend (Bunny might be too scared and hop behind you again). Then grab another stuffed animal and have him introduce himself. "Hello, Bunny! My name is Bear!" Invite your child to keep the game going until everyone is introduced.

Smile

Play this feelings game in front of a large mirror. With a big smile on your face say, "Hi, friend. I'm happy to see you!" Watch your child's smile grow, too. Then let your child give it a try. Practice other feelings to contrast the many expressions we show on our faces.

Say Please

Try this variation of Simon Says. Instead of saying "Simon Says," the person in charge must say "please" to get a response from the group. Such as: "Jump on one foot." (no response) "Jump on one foot, please." (response) You might also try the game "Mother May I?" Substitute your child's name for "mother," and then talk about how it makes us feel when we politely ask our friends for permission.

Take Turns

Create an obstacle course. Inside, you might use sofa pillows to jump on or a coffee table to crawl under. Outside you might use a hula hoop to hop through or a jump rope to walk on top of. Take turns going through each step of the course. Say "my turn" as you demonstrate, then say "your turn" as your Sproutlet follows.

Share

Fill two bowls with a different type of finger food. You might fill one bowl with grapes and the other with pretzels. Then ask, "If we both want pretzels, how can we share?" Give your child some time to problem solve. You can also turn this into a fun counting game. Say, "I'm going to share this many grapes with you…" and clap your hands a number of times. Give that number of grapes to your child. Then have her take a turn clapping and sharing.

Clean Up

Connect goodbye with cleaning up. At home, before a nap or an outing, say goodbye to the toy room and sing Barney's "Clean Up" song as you return toys to their places. When you are at a friend's house, your child can continue this goodbye habit. Helping with clean up is one more way to show kindness to friend, because it shows that you care about her toys as much as you care about your toys.