For the last two weeks in our classrooms, we have been subtly encouraging the children to expand their friendships. Sometimes, in a classroom setting, the same children gravitate toward each other and form social groups. While it is normal for children to have social preferences, it is also necessary to experience forming friendships with different kids. At PlayTogether NYC, we addressed this in several ways.
Recently, we have started a new policy where, during circle time, each child must give a compliment to another child. Circle time helps children to open up in expressive ways and be able to share with the other children. This has really changed the dynamic in the classroom.
For example, a little boy who normally does not play with girls in the class told a girl that he liked her shoes. She was so happy about the attention from this boy that she told everyone in her family about it. The next day these two children played together for the first time.
We have also seen the children compliment each other on art projects, puzzles and other activities in the classroom. Now that they have learned a new vocabulary word (compliment), they are excited to apply in all settings. It is really beautiful to witness.
During snack time, we also ask the children to talk about their favorite items in the classroom. This has opened up some unbelievable and exciting conversations for the children as they realize all the things they have in common.
Another way we mix things up in the classroom is to have two person art projects. We chose children who do not normally play together and have them plan and construct an art project. This creates a lot of laughter at the art table. We have also found that some children are more relaxed doing an art project with different kids. It can help them focus on the process of the project rather than focusing their close friends.
Building these positive experiences for children is an integral part of learning at PlayTogether NYC.