Educators have numerous responsibilities to the children in our care. Most importantly we are responsible for fostering their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. In our school age program for children aged 6 to 8, we set goals for creating new friendships between peers and fostering skills to support basic social interactions (e.g. asking to join a game already in progress). But where to start?
Our CISS Resource Consultant told us about a former program called “Amigos Time”. It sounded exactly like what we were looking for. The concept is fairly simple. Each week, the educators place the children in pairs. The pairings are written on a dry erase poster hanging on our Amigos Club bulletin board, and the children are very excited to see who their partner will be upon arrival from school on Mondays. Each educator introduces a cooperative activity once or twice a week that they do together.
We first began by explaining the concept to our groups during our “community time” (dedicated time each day after school where we have conversations about what’s happening in our program). We explained that this was going to be a time to work together with peers that they may not normally play with and to get to know the whole group. We also spoke about the importance of their verbal and non-verbal reactions upon hearing who their partner was, and how different reactions might make their “amigo” feel. We have a wonderful group of children and they bought into the idea of the club from the beginning.
To ease the children into the club, we first placed them in pairs with a friend and later they were paired with less familiar peers. Amigos Club activities have included: collaborative drawings, introducing your amigo to the group after an interview, partner relay races, and partner yoga just to name a few. We have tried to incorporate a broad range of activities to accommodate the many different interests of our children.
The progress we have seen has been incredible. We’ve witnessed children who struggle to fit in receive a much needed boost of self esteem after being excitedly told, “You’re my amigo this week, I’m so excited!”. It is commonplace for us to see an amigos pairing continue to play together for an entire afternoon once our club activity has finished. The overall amount of cooperative play within our program has reached an all time high; it is not at all unusual to see groups of four or more children playing together in different areas of our room. Amigos Club has become a staple of our program and likely will be for years to come.
Amanda Murphy, RECE
Children’s Village at Stoneway