Building positive friendships is particularly important for children. A child’s friendships (or lack thereof) influences various aspects of his or her life, from social-emotional development to school performance.
And the earlier they make friends, the better, according to a 2011 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The study found that preschool friendships are helpful in developing social and emotional skills, increasing a sense of belonging and decreasing stress.
Professor of psychology and child behavior expert Paul Schwartz notes other benefits of childhood friendship. In an article titled, “Child Behavior: The Importance Of Friendship,” he shared that “compared to children who lack friends, children with ‘good’ friends have higher self-esteem, act more socially, can cope with life stresses and transitions, and are also less victimized by peers.”
As with most things, the benefits of friendship are based on quality, not quantity. In this activity, students are challenged to think about friendships and the qualities that make a good friend. They will identify the positive qualities they possess as well as those they are looking for in a friend.
- One sheet of paper for each student
- Crayons or markers
- Ask students why friendships are important to our health. Write this list on the board or a large sheet of paper (some possible answers are to be happy, to rely on each other, to care for one another or to help one another).
- Then, ask students what qualities are important in a friend and record the responses (suggested answers are loyalty, kindness, helpfulness and understanding).
- Briefly examine these with the class to ensure understanding.
- Ask students to create a personal advertisement that identifies one of their good qualities. They can draw a picture and use words to advertise their quality. These should remain anonymous.
- When everyone has completed their advertisements, they can be displayed on the board or on the desks.
- Students will now have the opportunity to “shop” for a friend based on the qualities they are looking for. When they find an ad they like, they should write their names on the bottom of the advertisement.
- When this is complete, all ads will have names on them.
- Close with the idea that everyone has positive qualities and is worthy of friendships, and sometimes people need to look past the obvious to see what matters the most. It’s important to ensure that everyone walks away from this activity feeling good.
This activity is a great way to foster positive social skills and help students create meaningful friendships in afterschool. For more activities like this, check out Healthy Breaks: Wellness Activities for the Classroom.