In kindergarten, your child will narrow his pool of potential friends even more. By age five, children not only seek out friends based on positive behaviors and shared interests, but gender. In fact, gender suddenly becomes the Grand Canyon that separates girls from boys. "It just naturally occurs," Cohen says. "You might see a bit of it in preschool, but it's very marked in kindergarten."
So don't be surprised to hear your son and his friends say, "We don't like girls!" or your daughter claim, "Boys have cooties!" And if you're planning a birthday party for a five-year-old, consider making it all-girl or all-boy.
Kindergartners also tend to change friends frequently. It's not until third or fourth grade that friendships become long-lasting, and you can expect your child to have the same friends from year to year. For now, don't worry if your child seems excited about a different friend every week.
Friendship-Building Tips for Kindergartners:
- Your child is now old enough to practice being a good host. When a friend visits for a play date, the host should let the visitor decide what to play.
- Limit any play date time spent on videogames or TV. (Try using a kitchen timer.) Children who are interacting with a video screen are not interacting with each other. Try setting out a planned activity ahead of time—a board game, a craft project—that the children can enjoy together. Give them the chance to stretch their imaginations and practice their social skills.
Friendship is about more than just child's play. Your child's ability to get along with her peers can contribute greatly to her happiness, in school and in life. By offering a few gentle nudges in the right direction, you can help her learn the positive social skills she needs to succeed.