When promoting peer interactions, it is important to understand that children at different ages interact differently and the quality of friendships changes as children age. The following are some characteristics of school-agers to keep in mind.
- Kindergarten and Grade 1 – Will play with anyone.
- Grade 2 and 3 – Boys and girls avoid each other.
- Grade 4 – Emergence of ‘best friend’.
- Grade 5 – Boy groups more solidly established.
- Grade 6 – Friendships are based on mutual understanding and affection.
The Intervene Before Reacting… manual contains fundamental principles to help programs develop and facilitate positive peer interactions. A quality school age program has a clear and inclusive program philosophy; provides a sense of physical / emotional safety; and is intentionally structured to build positive and supportive relationships. Environmental considerations include, Physical Space, Structure and Transitions, Teacher Responses and Programming. For more detailed explanations, please refer to your copy of Intervene Before Reacting….
When supporting peer interactions, the following strategies and techniques can be employed.
Modeling occurs when the educator sets up and joins the children in play where she can facilitate and model interactions and language.
Through play, routines and transitions, teachable moments present themselves often. Educators should seize the moment particularly when social opportunities arise. For example, an educator can comment and point out similarities of likes and dislikes. When she notices two children wearing something the same or similar in terms of colour or style, she can say, “Hey – Ben is wearing a blue shirt and so is Ezra. Both Ben and Ezra must like blue. Does anyone else like blue? You do?! You, Ben and Ezra all like blue!” She can extend this by talking about likes and dislikes at circle, at lunch and during free play e.g. favourite toys, activities, animals, foods, etc.
Role playing can strengthen peer interactions by giving children familiar yet structured roles around a theme. For example playing grocery store, one child is the cashier, and another child is the customer. Peer interactions can be developed by modeling simple language, “What do you want to buy?” “That will be $5, thank you!”
Peer strategies are when you invite children who have strong social skills to partner with a peer and engage in a fun structured activity such as a collage, baking, building or painting. Partner games i.e. “Row Row your Boat” and cooperative helper jobs such as passing out musical instruments at circle are other ways to pair children together. Peers with strong social skills can be good models, play partners, problem solvers and coaches for the children whose social skills are emerging.
From the CISS Team