Do you want to play with me?

Do you want to play with me?
The first friends your child makes are important. The time they spend together isn’t just about play, but also about learning how to get along with others.

The first friends your child makes are important. The time they spend together isn’t just about play, but also about learning how to get along with others.

Marianne, 4, met her friend Victoria at daycare. “The girls were always playing together at the daycare centre,” recalls her mom, Véronique. “But I’d say Victoria really became her friend last summer, when she invited Marianne over to her house.”

Children start developing friendships at the age of 3 or 4. “It’s around this age that they start enjoying interacting with other kids and building relationships with people other than their parents and family members,” says psychologist Marie-Ève Brabant. “In addition, having a strong bond with their parents makes it easier for children to make friends. A child who feels loved and selfassured will be more open toward others.”

It’s also at this stage that toddlers begin developing their identity; they’ll tend to hang out with children who look like them and share the same interests. “That’s why boys will mostly befriend other boys and girls, other girls,” explains Brabant. Indeed, Véronique acknowledges that Marianne and Victoria have similar personalities. “They’re both even-tempered girls with active imaginations, and they love dressing up and making up stories.”

Did you know?
By the age of about 18 months, toddlers are happy to be around other kids, but they play next to rather than with one another. This behaviour is known as parallel play.

Learning with friends

To make friends, children have to be able to control their emotions. “When they play with other kids, children are continuing to develop the social skills it takes to get along with others,” says Brabant. “Having friends encourages sharing, teamwork, waiting one’s turn, and resolving minor conflicts.”

Véronique has noticed that her daughter acts more mature around her friend. “We invited Victoria to our house at one point,” she says, “and it was great to see Marianne play host. She showed her around the house. With her big sister, who’s 10, Marianne doesn’t always like to share, but she opened up her toy box for her friend and let her try all her costumes. She was so well mannered and generous!”

Do toddlers fall in love?
If your little boy says he loves Léa, he doesn’t mean love in the conventional sense. “There’s no sexual connotation either,” says Brabant. “It’s friendship. He means they get along. They might hang out together a lot, hold hands, or give each other hugs. But you shouldn’t draw too much attention to their relationship or make comments like ‘Here comes your girlfriend!’ That kind of thing might make your child feel pressured and affect his behaviour.” Childhood romances are most common during preadolescence, around the age of 9 or 10.


Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, January–February 2018
Research and copywriting: Julie Leduc
Scientific review: Solène Bourque, psychoeducator


Photo: Maxim Morin