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Friendship Month: Five early classroom lessons to last a lifetime

February’s official status as Friendship Month is the perfect time to teach fundamentals of what it means to be a good friend. Many of the same values that make children good classmates also extend to life outside the early childhood classroom and beyond. While Feb. 14’s dedication to love is often the month’s theme, loving our neighbor and extending kindness can broaden the emphasis for inclusivity.

Here are five early childhood lessons that teach key values of friendship:

Teach solidarity with a pick-up-sticks game: Plan for a game of “I spy” by hiding twigs around the classroom. Play fun music and encourage your preschoolers to pick up sticks before coming back together. Lead a discussion on how friends help one another and can accomplish more when they work together. Break a single stick to emphasize how we may be more fragile alone; collect sticks from students and show the bundle becomes more difficult to break.

Teach kindness with a favorite story: Listening to a story builds so many skills to benefit children throughout their lives, from ABCs and cognition to lessons in empathy and other values. Being a kind friend is an all-purpose refrain often repeated in early childhood settings that correlates with basics like keeping hands to ourselves and choosing to play well with others. Recognizing those traits in storybook characters can provide a model for behavior awareness. See these 12 suggested titles from Read Brightly to teach kindness, including Matt de la Peña’s “Last Stop on Market Street” and “I Am Kind: A Little Book About Abraham Lincoln” by Brad Meltzer.

Teach grace with a game of telephone: Sharing the old-fashioned telephone game can help even young preschoolers understand how a message changes or can become distorted when it is overshared. Giving our friends grace and being loyal to one another by offering the benefit of the doubt is a kind practice that can have a place in the classroom and on the playground.

Teach inclusivity with a game of Duck, Duck, Goose: Whether your class plays with one large circle or in small groups, indoors or outdoors, make sure every child gets a chance to be the goose. Ask how the students felt while they were waiting to be chosen and how they might have felt if their turn didn’t come.

Teach generosity by sharing a favorite treat: Allow students to take turns passing out snacks, using kind words like “please” and “thank you” and enjoying a special treat together. Seasonal fruit cut into exactly enough pieces so everyone can share a slice can be a memorable way to show how we take care of others and there is just enough for everyone when we approach issues purposefully.

No matter how you celebrate Friendship Month, may it be filled with all the best attributes of the social experience in children’s young lives: fun, sharing and good times together.

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