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Childrens friendships

childrens friendships

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Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with your childrens friendships. You ask after a best friend only to be informed that they’re not friends anymore or you start hearing an unfamiliar name being talked about non-stop and presume they’ve made a new friend. But how do children make friends and what are the ‘rules’ of kids’ friendships?

Babies and toddlers

From the minute they can crawl, babies are curious about what their peers are up to. If your toddler goes to nursery, playgroup or a childminder you may hear them talking about their friends and wonder exactly what it is they share with them. The answer is usually not very much. Up until around the age of three most children play alongside rather than with each other. You may notice an unwillingness to share and this is perfectly natural in very young kids.

Pre-school and primary school

While babies and toddlers don’t really care about the gender of their playmates, when your child starts school you may notice her best friends are of the same sex. However, outside of school mixed groups of friends are more common, depending largely on the gender of neighbours and other children they play outside with. While parallel play continues through this stage, kids will also start playing with each other making up scenarios, kicking a ball around, playing games or racing about on scooters and bikes.

Secondary school

By this stage kids tend to take more notice of their friends’ gender. Mixed sex friendships will often form in groups, while best friends and those who spend a lot of one-to-one time together are most often same-sex. During the teenage years friendships can become more intense with kids confiding in and learning from one another.

Number of friendships

childrens friendshipsYoung children may describe everyone in their class as being a friend but true friendships are usually limited to somewhere between one and ten, with the average being five. Not all these friendships will last but new friends will often come along to take the places of those who drift apart.


Just like in all relationships, conflict is unavoidable in children’s friendships. Kids often take things very personally and so it can be difficult for them to get over an argument or fight. The example you give in your own relationships will go a long way to showing them how to deal with conflict and move on.


From quite early on and right through secondary school children will be aware of whether or not they are one of the popular or ‘cool’ kids. This may or may not bother them depending on their confidence and personality. Rather than trying to fit in with the in-crowd, encourage your child to make good friends that love them for who they are and will be there to support them no matter what. If someone feels wanted and respected for who they are then they’re much less likely to worry about what other people think.

Parental influence

Until children start school we can pretty much dictate the friends they do and don’t play with. But the moment they step through those school gates, parents have to trust that their children are forming friendships that are genuine and will bring happiness to both parties. It can often be tempting to intervene in kids’ friendships, especially if, as adults, we don’t view them as being particularly healthy. However, it’s important that parents fight the urge to interfere and let even young children choose their own friends. For children, friendship is a learning curve and it’s important that they experience it on their own terms.




About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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