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Developing Friendship in Early Childhood

Developing Friendship in Early Childhood

A child was crying in the playground.IMG_1818

Ying: “What happened?”

Child A: “Child B said I couldn’t play with her.”

Ying: “Let’s go talk to her and see how we can work it out.”

I held Child A’s hand and walked to child B, and I asked child B.

Ying: “Did you see your friend is crying now? She’s upset because you said to her that she couldn’t play with you. I understand that we can have different play choices but we want to tell our friends our choices nicely so we won’t hurt their feeling. Are your ready to play with her now?”

Child B: “No, I want to play with Child C.”

Ying: “ That’s fine, you can tell your friend politely that you want are not ready to play with her, and you can play with her later. Your friend is upset because if you just said you don’t want to play with her and she thought that you don’t want to play with her forever.”

Child B repeated my words to Child A. Then I turned to child A

Ying: “You know what, best friend don’t need to play together all the time. Sometimes your friend can play with other children just like you can choose to play with different children too. Remember this morning you were playing with child D right?”

Child A nodded her head.

Child A looked at Child E who was stand nearby and observe our conversation, she said: “let’s play together.” Child A then held Child E’s hand and went out to play.

I remember a couple of years ago when I first became an early childhood teacher; my response to the above scenario was so different. My first reply to the “He/she’s not playing with me.” was “Oh, that’s not nice, let’s tell your friend is not ok to say that.” This answer sounds reasonable, however I doubt that if it can really help children understand what friendship is and support them to develop friendship with others.




To improve my practices, I read a couple books including a book called We’re friends, right? from William Corsaro, a leading authority on child ethnography. This book offers new perspectives on child psychology, development and education. I then understand better that when children say “I don’t want to play with you” doesn’t really mean that they don’t want to play with their friend. It could be the lack of vocabulary to express themselves. What I need to do is to give them the vocabulary and to model the use of it; just as the above scenario “I am not ready to play with you now. I can play with you later.”


In the past, maybe we focused more on blaming the child who rejected the invitation to play, but when I put myself into her shoes, if I were playing with another friend happily, do I want to step out of the play and accept another friend’s invitation? I doubt that. Therefore, I think it’s also important to explain to both children that we can have different play choices with different people at different times, just like I told Child A that best friend don’t need to always stay together.


Reflected on my previous work, I learned two things, reflection and inquiry. Reflection helps us to see what we did well and what we need to improve. When we start to inquire our own practices, we are actually gaining a parallel learning experience as children. I hope this week’s story is interesting and helpful to you, and I hope that we can develop mutual understanding and practices with our children.

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