A positive social atmosphere is essential in any preschool program. Young children are capable of creating strong friendships that can help them learn vital social and communication skills and help them understand the world around them. Social relationships are a core aspect of healthy development, and all children benefit from making friends during these critical years.
But not all children make friends easily or naturally. Parents, caregivers, and educators can play an important role in helping young children develop good social skills that allow them to build healthy friendships at school and at home.
An early learning center can give children the tools and guidance to make friends and develop healthy social relationships. This guide will explore several ways to create a positive, nurturing social atmosphere at school and foster preschool-aged friendships.
Reach out to the caring educators at New Horizons Learning Center now to learn about our incredible early education programs or to schedule a tour of our center.
How to Create a Positive Social Atmosphere at School
Friendships are a crucial–and fun–aspect of a child’s first years. Making friends helps children learn about other people, develop empathy, and expand their worldviews. Educators and parents can work together to build and enforce good social skills and help children develop healthy relationships.
Here are some of the best ways educators can create a positive social atmosphere at school and nurture blossoming friendships during the preschool years.
1. Encourage social skills
Teachers can foster good social skills by encouraging children to play together and share with others. Some of this can be intentional, and some may occur naturally. Teachers may suggest that a child reach out to another who is lonely or create learning and play experiences that rely on children working together.
It’s also important to recognize when these behaviors occur naturally and give lots of praise. For example, if you notice that a child approaches another and asks them to play, a teacher may acknowledge this later in the day.
Some examples of language to use might include:
- “I was so proud of you for inviting Sarah to play with you at the block corner!”
- “I’m noticing Owen doesn’t have someone to play with–will you ask him to play dress-up with you?”
- “I really liked how you two worked together to do the puzzle this morning!”
Pointing out when children are using good social skills helps others do the same. It is important to create a classroom culture that values friendship and caring actions.
2. Focus on collaboration
Teachers can plan collaborative activities that provide plenty of opportunities for children to develop and practice social skills. Kids could work together on an art project, solve a problem, or play a team game. Teachers can also simply give a group of children a small job, such as cleaning up a specific area of the room, to teach the value of teamwork.
3. Talk about friendship
Children may not naturally understand what makes a good friend or how to form healthy relationships. These concepts can be very complex–even for adults! Early childhood educators can help introduce the idea of good friendships by talking about what makes a good friend.
Start by reading stories about friends and pointing out what friendly actions you’re seeing. You could ask questions like, “What is special about your friend?” or “How do you feel when you’re playing with your friend?” These questions can help young children think about qualities that make good friends, even at a very young age.
4. Encourage individuality
Parents and caregivers might worry that their child needs to be outgoing, funny, or especially charming to make good friends with other young children. However, it’s important to remember that what makes each child unique is what is most likely to help them develop healthy relationships.
Encourage children to be themselves and to share their unique interests and characteristics with others. This can help children develop meaningful relationships with others and encourage respect for all people, regardless of similarities or differences.
5. Encourage flexibility and forgiveness
No relationship is perfect–even among young children. Teachers and parents can discuss how to manage conflicts kindly and respectfully and move on afterward. Encourage young children to listen to each other and work things out instead of simply saying, “You’re not my friend anymore!”
Teach children how to enforce their boundaries by giving them the language to use during conflict, such as:
- “I don’t like playing like that.”
- “Stop, that hurts me.”
- “We can play what you want to play now and what I want to play later.”
- “Can I have a turn with that when you are done?”
Learning how to navigate social challenges without giving up the friendship can benefit children during the early years and beyond.
Educators and caregivers have many opportunities to help children develop the essential social skills they need to create healthy, fun friendships. Learn more about creating a positive social atmosphere in school by reaching out to the dedicated educators at New Horizons Learning Center.