mother of one
mother of one asks:

My five year old does not care to play with others. Any help?

He is an only child.  While he does not mind having other kids over to play, he prefers to play by himself or with me.  At school he likes to "watch" the others but says he likes to play by himself.  Is this normal? Any suggestions on how I can get him to "click" with the other kids?
In Topics: Friendships and peer relationships
> 60 days ago



Hand in Hand
Apr 15, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Mother of One:

Sometimes, when children are reluctant to invest in friendships with other children, you have to help things along a bit. You can try playing the role of "warmer-upper" when another child comes over.

One of the fastest ways to help children feel comfortable together is to play with them so that they are the strong, the swift, the clever. That might mean getting a friendly pillow fight going, where they throw pillows (you throw one first, to get it going, and make sure the pillows don't have zippers on them) and then when they land one on you, you fall down, kerplop! They will laugh and liven up and the game is on! Or you could do bucking bronco rides on your back. Or get a game of tag going, where you just can't catch them, but try hard over and over. You get the idea. If they're on a team and you're the one who is playfully, happily "struggling" and losing, they bond, are delighted in each other, and after ten or fifteen minutes, you might see that they are able to figure out what they want to do, and your son might be more connected to his friend or friends by then.

And sometimes the reason for the reluctance is that he is so used to his relationship with you that he doesn't feel like he has room in his heart for other kids. In this case, you need to notice when your child is reluctant to leave you, reluctant to go to be with other children. You need, at those times, to gently but firmly tell him that he can make friends, that he will be safe, and that you're not going to be with him right now. Let him have a good cry, for as long as he can keep going. Just keep holding out the idea that you won't go with him, that it's time for him to play with the kids there. The crying he does will clear a place for trying new things, clear out the feelings of "needing just you" that block his ability to seek out and enjoy friendships.

Here is an article on helping children work on feelings around separation, and a success story from a father in a situation something like the one you are describing. Staylistening--staying with a crying child until he or she is finished feeling upset--is a very powerful aid to help children increase their flexibility.


Patty Wipfler
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Additional Answers (1)

Susiex3 writes:
My 8 years old daughter is the same way. I do not think that there is anything wrong with that. I just encourage her to try to  mix around and told her that she will not play by herself, when her friends come over, or I send home or not invite them over anymore. She is fine with it and will start playing with her friends again. You can go to churches and Community centers to check on what activities they have. You do not have to be a member of a church to participate in their summer program and other activites like Awana class in the evening, Vacation Bible school in the summer at different churches with games, snacks, music, etc(don't worry, they do not brain wash your child. It's really fun for the kids), etc. I believe that it would be a good place for him to learn to be with others too, apart from at school and once in a while with friends over. That might help him to learn to play with other kids more overtime. Hope this helps. I don't think there is anything to worry about. He is just so use to just you most of the tme being the only child
> 60 days ago

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