Try the following practices with infants and toddlers and preschool-aged children. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.
Infants and Toddlers
- Position infants where they can see others playing. Comment on the activities of other children.
- Hold very young children on your lap so they can see their peers, which makes you a secure base and shows them you’ve got their back.
- Create opportunities to play side by side. Provide duplicate toys or toys with multiple parts that make sharing easier, like a shape sorter.
- For older toddlers, arrange play areas that accommodate small groups so that children can go into those areas to play and interact with each other.
- Resist the urge to leap in to facilitate play, allowing a little time for children to work things out on their own.
- Read books about playing together and helping each other.
- Pair a child who has difficulty making friends with a more skilled buddy to complete a fun activity together.
- Model ways a child can invite himself into a group. Join the play yourself with dialogue that shows how; for example, “That looks like fun. Shall we ask them if we can play, too?”
- Identify problems as you see them happening. Cue children by saying, “I see we have a problem. What should we do?”
- Use puppets and persona dolls to role-play common conflicts, asking children to describe how characters are feeling and how they might solve the problem.
- Create laminated books showing illustrated solutions to problems, such as trading, taking turns, and playing together. Have children refer to the book for solutions as needed.
- Create a “friendship can” that includes popsicle sticks with each child’s name or photo. Draw sticks to pair children for activities or classroom errands.
Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas:
- Share information with parents about why it is important for their child to develop positive social skills with peers.
- Encourage parents to share their observations of and expectations for peer interactions.
- For example, peer interactions among young children in some cultural groups may be mostly nonverbal; instead, children may imitate each other or offer toys to a friend.1
- Strategize with parents to identify opportunities for their child to be with peers (in addition to siblings or other children who live in the household), like family and community events.
- Encourage parents to attend group socializations. These sessions offer more chances for parents to help their child learn and practice social skills with peers.
1Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 22, 25, A.4.
Last Updated: December 3, 2019