If you are a natural social butterfly, it may be hard for you to understand why your child is content to play by himself or herself. Your child may or may not display signs of social anxiety – and in fact may feel none. He or she just is okay playing alone. What do you do to prepare your child for preschool?
Child development stages
ChildDevelopmentInfo.com reminds us that ALL children go through stages of development as they learn to socialize, with the very young playing alone and only rarely wanting a play partner (often mother or father). Then, another child will probably enter the circle of play, often with a rocky beginning with your child experiencing difficulties in sharing and/or of allowing another child to go first. After all, when you play by yourself, you ALWAYS go first, right?
During this phase, it’s normal to hear your child say that he will never play with so-and-so again. And it’s equally as normal when those two are playing happily together within moments. Child Development Info says this circle usually naturally expands and, by kindergarten, children can often enjoy group experiences.
How to get all started
Perhaps your child is an only child and so they don't have playmates at home. What next? The site suggests that you, as parent, find an appropriate playmate – either gender is fine – and ask his or her parent to “borrow” the child for a short playdate in your home. As these become more frequent and comfortable, you can “fade into the woodwork for five or ten minutes, keeping well within earshot.” Next? Have your child go to the friend’s house, instead. Know that, by the time you’re ready to expand to group play, a new challenge exists: children pairing off and leaving someone alone. At this point, suggest a group activity and get them started.
Although Bright Hub Education focuses on ideas for teachers, the site recommends age-appropriate activities for your preschooler and friends that you can easily oversee, including:
- Games: Row, Row, Row Your Boat is often a winner; if you teach your child how to play, he or she will be more comfortable when other children want to participate
- Name song: for a newer group, using any tune; teach these words and motions: “Have the children draw with their finger on the back of a peer as they say this ‘I know what my name is, I wonder if you know, My name is ….’ (point to a child who calls out their name), Then all sing, “hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello." Have the children wave to the child who has said their name. You can always try saying hello in different languages for additional fun.”
- Books: Read to your child and friends. Books that specifically focus on friendship include My Cat Maisie by Pamela Allen and That’s What Friends are For by P.K. Halliman. The second book includes suggestions about what friends can do together.
The site also has an article that focuses on promoting kindness among children, a key element of creating lasting friendships. One tip is to sit in a circle and share stories and pictures about kindness and to chat about ways you can be kind to someone else. Ideas they list are:
- Say hello and smile at people.
- Be extra kind to people in your life; be courteous, and say please and thank you.
- Offer to let a classmate go first in a game.
- Share your toys.
- Help to clean up your classroom and playground.
If you’re looking for a quality affordable preschool/child care program that provides the types of educational programs and enrichment experiences that help prepare your child for K-12, contact the Horizon Education Center in your neighborhood.