Making Friends

“Say hello and make a friend.” 2 to 3 years old children begin to play with others. At the beginning, they may not follow rules or even fight with each other. With your guidance, however, your child will slowly acquire basic social skills and manners. She may even share toys with others. These skills are vital for successful family and social relationships in the future.

It Begins in the Family

Family is the best setting for children to learn social skills. As they like to imitate adults, you need to be a role model.

Show your child what good social manners are and encourage her to greet others. If your child is not willing to talk, teach her to greet by nodding or waving hands. Make use of meal and play time to teach your child to share, take turns and work with siblings and others in the family.

Getting Along with Friends

Other than getting along with siblings, take your child out to meet people. You can also take her to the playground, enrol her in a playgroup or a preschool so that she can make new friends.

Although children of this age start to play with others, they do not know how to share toys yet. They do not have the concept of borrowing and return but just concern about the here-and-now. They think that their toys will be forever gone if someone asks to share. Therefore, your child needs your patient guidance to learn to take turns and share.

FAQs on Getting Along with Friends

My child is very shy, what can I do?

Some children are quiet and introverted. They need more time to get used to strangers. Instead of pressing or forcing him, try to understand and accept his characteristics. Guide him step-by-step with patience to join in other children’s activity.

  • Stay with him while watching other children play.
  • Show him how to join in other children’s play by doing it.
  • Invite him to join in when he is ready.
  • Do not blame or shame him if he refuses to join. Show your acceptance by saying “I know you prefer to watch a little longer. When you want to play with them, just let me know.”
  • If your child joins in, wait till he becomes more involved in the activity before you gradually withdraw. Yet, stay close and give him encouragement from time to time.

My child is not willing to take turns, what can I do?

The 2-year-olds lack patience. They need your guidance to follow rules.
  • When your child is queuing up, talk with her to divert her attention.
  • Tell her beforehand for how long she can play.
  • Before the game ends, prepare your child in advance: “Time is nearly up. Please give turn to the next kid after I count to 10.”
  • Use your imagination to help your child end the game more pleasantly: “It’s time for the car to go home. Hurry to park it!”
  • Tell your child that there are other more interesting toys/games “Look! These blocks are so pretty!”
  • If your child is unwilling to give up the toy or game, accept her feelings, “You really like this bike and want to play a bit longer, right?”. Then lead her to take turns, “Let’s queue up again.” You can also offer other choices, “How about playing with the blocks?”
  • If your child does not follow the rules, take her aside. Let her quiet down for a minute and do not give her any attention. After the one minute, let her join the game again and remind her to follow rules.

My child grabs others’ toys, what can I do?

  1. The 2-year-olds are still self-centred and they may fight for toys. It does not mean that they are bullies. Rather, they have not yet learnt to solve problems, and to understand others’ thoughts and feelings. You may show your child how to share with visitors or when visiting friends.
    • Discuss with your child which toys he can share. Put away those he does not want to share.
    • When visiting friends, ask your child to bring along one or two toys that he can share.
    • Before asking your child to share, explain to him that he is just lending out the toy for a while, and it will be returned later. “How about letting your friend plays with the toy for a while. He will return it to you when we go home.”
    • Praise him immediately if he agrees to share.
  2. If problem arises, you may stand aside to observe your child’s interactions with peers before deciding to step in. Do not judge too early and favour either side:
    • If your child had grabbed a toy from another child, step in and stop him immediately.

      Guide him to think about different solutions,

      • “If you want to play it, what should you do? You can ask for it nicely.”
      • “You can either exchange your toy for it, or take turns.”
  3. If your child is upset when he failed to grab the toy, show him that you understand his feelings and guide him to think of other ways,

    “You are upset because he did not let you play that toy, right? But that’s his toy. He will be upset too if you grab it.”

  4. If others agree to lend him the toy, teach him to say “thank you”. Otherwise, try to divert his attention to other toys or games.

My child always hits others, what can I do?

Children often fight to solve problems. They may also become aggressive when they are frustrated or angry. Proper guidance can prevent your child’s aggressive behaviour developing into a habit, help him solve problems in acceptable ways, and let him learn to be responsible for his aggressive behaviour.

  • Set 2 to 3 rules with your child about playing with others, such as “take turns”, “be kind”. State clearly the consequences for breaking the rules, for example “have the toy taken away for 1 minute”.
  • When your child plays peacefully with others, praise him more.
  • If he hits others, stop him at once: “Stop! You are hurting him. If you want to play, you have to take turn.”
  • If he does not stop, lead him aside and let him calm down for one minute. Do not give him any attention meanwhile. After quieting down for one minute, let him join the game again and remind him to follow the rules.
  • You may then lead him to say sorry and make peace with the other child.