Seeking connection with others is an innate human need, as strong as our need for food or water. Secure attachment is the foundation of our mental and physical well-being.
Research has often confirmed the benefits of friendships – people who have close friends tend to better cope with stress, experience a more positive mood, and have better mental and physical health.
Children make first friendships during early childhood, learning to interact with their peers. Early connections provide a sense of belonging and help children develop important social and emotional skills.
Encourage peer connections for your child by doing things together with other families in your community and encouraging independent play.
Children Connect with Others Through Play
Kids form friendships through free play. Their friendships begin as connections founded on enjoyable experiences. Through play, children understand social roles and rules, practice cooperation and patience, and learn to control their emotions.
Playtime with other children can help your child express their opinion, negotiate, and show empathy. During play, children learn about reciprocity and social exchange.
The development of these early social skills is the groundwork for friendships in adulthood. As they grow up, the role of friendships continues to have a significant impact on a child’s development and well-being. Adolescent friendships evolve to more abstract connections based upon mutual acceptance, interests, and emotional satisfaction.
The Benefits of Introducing Your Child to Other Children
Friendships are significant to children. Here are some of the ways peer playdates can benefit your child’s development.
· Playtime with Friends Increases Confidence
Some children struggle connecting with others because they are shy. If you provide your child with safe opportunities to interact with peers, you can help them build connections and grow confidence.
Engaging in imaginary play with other children can encourage your child’s independence and self-esteem.
Encourage your child to approach new children while playing and explore their interests together. For example, an inclusive play space such as children’s playgrounds can help kids overcome shyness, learn age-appropriate behaviors, and practice social skills.
· Early Childhood Friendships Boost Social Skills
Most children who experience emotional or behavioral problems report a lack of friendships or difficulty interacting with peers.
Making new friends can help develop your child’s communication skills and learn the rules of conversation. In addition, it boosts cooperation and empathy, assisting kids in understanding other people’s points of view. Moreover, playtime with peers encourages children to learn the importance of sharing and turn-taking – critical social skills that will benefit kids later in life.
· Close Friendships Ensure Acceptance and Support
Friends provide company and fun. They help kids feel valued and accepted, increasing your child’s sense of self-worth. Kids with friends are less likely to feel lonely and isolated. This leads to better mental health outcomes – children who socialize with peers can cope with life transitions and stresses.
While it is normal for young children to enjoy solitary play, encouraging your child to interact with other children has many benefits. In addition, your child’s playdates with peers can be an excellent opportunity to meet other parents and make your own friendships with people who have similar parenting philosophies and interests.