Today, I am excited to share a collection of friendship activities designed to help children establish and build friendships. How do you teach friendship? This can be an abstract concept for kids, but by using friendship skills activities like games to teach social skills, friendship crafts, friendship recipes, and printables about friendship, we can teach children skills like empathy, perseverance, sharing, cooperation, and other essential components of friendship.
Be sure grab these friendship activities for teletherapy:
Writing about Friendship Slide Deck – writing prompts, writing letters to friends, and handwriting activities to develop friendship skills, all on a free interactive Google slide deck.
Personal Space Friendship Skills Slide Deck– Friendship involves allowing personal space, and body awareness and all of this is part of the social skill development that some kids struggle with. Use this free Google slide deck to work on body awareness and personal space.
Friendship Activities: Teaching Friendship Skills to Kids
Are you a good friend? Do you make a good friend? Do you have good friends? All of these are such important questions for children who are learning each day the necessary social skills that build lasting friendships.
Strong social skills are an important piece of everyday life and the earlier this is recognized, the better social growth and development a child will experience.
Demonstrating and recognizing the friendship qualities that makes a good friend and keeps friendships strong is an important skill to have early on in childhood. Children will develop friendships with others from different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and abilities. Adults have a responsibility to teach children about kindness and friendship to all. Learning this along with how a good friend acts and behaves and what is the right and wrong way to treat a friend is essential for strong social skill development.
Friendship activities can help children begin to explore the friendship qualities and behaviors that are important to learn how to be a good friend, if they make a good friend, and recognize do they have a good friend.
Read on for some creative ways to engage children in learning friendship skills.
There are many wonderful activities that can be used to help children develop friendship skills. What are some of the specific skills that are needed for building and maintaining friendships?
- Asking questions/being interested
- Helping others
- Responding to social situations
- Solving problems
- Being supportive
Some of these concepts are very abstract.
Using concrete examples, modeling, social stories, and activities that provide examples of these social skills can be powerful.
One way that I’ve loved to help children with social skill development in hands-on, and memorable ways is through play. To bring real-life visual examples that provide an opportunity for conversation and discussion is to use children’s books to inspire exploration of friendship skill development. Here are children’s books and activities that develop friendship skills.
Use the books to inspire discussion and play-based exploration of concepts such as empathy, acceptance, and differences.
Another way to address abstract concepts is through play. Use everyday toys to explore and develop turn-taking, communication, sharing, and problem solving.
Or, address turn-taking with blocks as kids communicate and practice taking turns.
Explore differences with this friendship sensory bottle.
These other friendship activities will give children the time to play and read to help them build a better understanding of good friendship behaviors and how to demonstrate them. Let’s take a look…
Food is always a fun way for children to learn! Using food is a great way to explore different friendship characteristics while making a tasty friendship treat to eat!
These recipes include food items like cereal, fruit, chocolate, and nuts. Be sure to always check for food allergies and especially peanut or nut allergies, if you include these in your treats.
Freight Train Activity – This mesmerizing book teaches basic concepts of shapes and colors, but can be expanded to discuss differences, awareness of others.
Games are another fun way for children to learn important skills like sharing, empathy, making friends, kindness, differences, and more. What child doesn’t like games?
Engage children in these fun games that include a version of I Spy with monsters, bean bag activities played in a group while in a line or a circle, tossing of a yarn ball to say why someone makes a good friend, and activity ideas in a cooperation blog post that includes elements of friendship.
Crafts are a creative way for children to express themselves, share and create with others, and develop their skills.
These crafts incorporate all of these elements while focusing on friendship to include spreading kindness, sharing, turn taking, and giving.
Empathy Activity– Use beads and a children’s book to explore empathy.
Super Friend Capes made with tee shirts.
Friendship Rocks Fingerprint Hearts made with rocks and fingerprints.
Friendship Flowers made with construction paper.
Foam Heart Friendship Necklaces made with foam hearts, beads, and yarn.
Beaded Friendship Bracelets made with beads and stretchy cords.
Friendship High Fives made with handprints and construction paper.
Secret Friendship Messages made with white crayons and revealed with watercolor paints.
In the classroom, therapy room, and hallway are great places to display friendship posters that show the importance of friendship and help create a positive classroom and school community. They show how to be a good friend and how not to be a good friend as well as help children to gain an understanding of good friendship qualities.
Friendship social stories
Social stories, or printable, hand-held stories that describe situations can give kids a concrete plan for everyday tasks. Using social stories to explain social situations is a great way to help kids with abstract concepts.
There are many nice templates out there that cover aspects of friendship, but for the most part, a social story should be individualized for each child.
This article on Autism and Friendship Skills includes important research on this topic to explore, but when it comes to using online social stories, they may not always be appropriate. Writing a social story for your child will be far more effective when you use the images, vocabulary, and terms that make sense to YOUR child or client, and the specific situations that are appropriate to your individual child or client.
Friendship Activities with Books
Mentioned briefly above, using books to help kids explore friendship is an incredibly rewarding way to pair friendship activities with the world of books.
Parents can cozy up with a child under a cozy blanket, for a calming and regulating experience of reading books togeter. Then, there is the oppourtunity to communicate about the characters, their friendships, and their conflicts, and their social situations that they had to navigate.
Through books, families can look at the pictures and come back to specific concepts again and again. And, adding hands-on, multi-sensory play experiences brings those concepts home.
In the resource, Exploring Books Through Play, you’ll do just that.
This digital, E-BOOK download is an amazing resource for anyone helping kids learn about acceptance, empathy, compassion, and friendship. In Exploring Books through Play, you’ll find therapist-approved resources, activities, crafts, projects, and play ideas based on 10 popular children’s books. Each book covered contains activities designed to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory exploration, handwriting, and more. Help kids understand complex topics of social/emotional skills, empathy, compassion, and friendship through books and hands-on play.
Click here to get your copy of Exploring Books Through Play.
Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!