As children begin to feel comfortable in the space and in relationship with educators, they begin to recognise the possibility of connecting with their peers. Reaching out for friendship and connection looks very different for different combinations of children at different times and in different spaces – there are endless variables that children learn to recognise and navigate as they explore their social worlds.
Learning to be friends is complex and fraught with emotional risk. Children, in seeking companionship, demonstrate incredible levels of resilience as they reach out, make mistakes, experience success, and try it all again tomorrow. If we undertook the same process that children undertake as adults I expect we would be in awe of children’s competence and bravery.
Children might reach out for friendship by:
- passing a toy to a peer (or taking a toy from a peer!)
- playing the same game alongside a peer
- smiling and other reciprocal facial expressions
- spontaneously joining in play with a peer, such as throwing back a ball that passes them by and then continuing the game
- explicitly joining in play with a peer, such as inviting or agreeing to an invitation to play
Connections to peers is essential to development of belonging, and results in a strong sense of community. The EYLF states;
“Children’s connectedness and different ways of belonging with people, country and communities helps them to learn ways of being which reflect the values, traditions and practices of their families and communities. Over time this learning transforms the ways they interact with others” (p25)