Babies babbling away in their prams. Toddlers playing in the sandpit. Busy kindergarten children on the climbing frame and getting arty with their paintbrushes.
These scenes are all part and parcel of everyday life where babies and children are growing up and starting to explore the world around them. But did you know that kids also learn friendship skills from a very early age?
A squabble over ‘ownership’ of a plastic toy, a group game school, playing dress-ups or even just sitting quietly in the classroom figuring out a puzzle with a teacher are all important activities that shape the way children develop friendships and trusted bonds.
And whilst the link between friendships and a choice of an early childhood school may not seem obvious at first glance, it can be a crucial decision that affects a child’s ability to develop enduring friendship qualities and social skills.
Kids learn the foundations of empathy, trust, appreciation, consideration and self-control from a very early age and if a child is in a caring, nurturing and trusting learning environment, they will start to develop strong friendship qualities that will form the foundation for their future relationships.
In early childhood, the key ingredients for forming friendships are opportunity and similarity. Like adults, children are drawn to those who share the same interests and they need constant opportunities to spend time together, play and interact together. A skilful teacher can also stimulate the development of relationship skills by coaching and supporting children to become more confident, respecting their abilities and encouraging dynamic communication.
An important aspect is the environment in which children forge those early bonds of friendship.
A child’s learning experience will be greatly enhanced if the child is supported by the physical, intellectual and social and emotional environment at school - and first prize is where educators actively encourage children to develop the following friendship skills:
- Self control
- Positive interaction
- Welcoming approach
- Consideration for others
- Participation and play skills
- Dynamic communication
- Thinking about others
- Coping with disappointment
- Conflict resolution
Of course, these are all complex skills which many of people are still developing well into adulthood but early childhood interactions (even as early as a baby and its parent or primary carer) sow those crucial first seeds of learning.
Developing trusted bonds of friendship is a cornerstone of the Reggio Emilio approach to early childhood learning which focuses on each child and involves the inter-connectedness of the family, the educators, other children, the school environment, the community and the wider society. Children learn through social interactions, especially in small groups with their peers where they listen to each other, ask questions, explore, negotiate and co-operate and where there are trusted bonds between child and educator.
The Reggio Emilio approach has been adapted for the Australian environment through the Nido Early School centres across the country. These premium educational centres encourage qualitative learning and create a solid foundation of experiences in the critical first five years of life that supports every child to reach their true potential. Find out more about how the Nido Early School cultivates young minds and a love of learning through their inclusive, village-style approach which engages the child, parent, community and the natural environment by visiting their website, nidoearlyschool.com.au.