My son doesn't play with the other kids in his class. What can I do to help him feel safe and make friends?

It's heartbreaking for parents to see their child struggle to make friends. Research has shown that high-quality friendships in kindergarten are associated with greater social skills in first and third grades, particularly for boys. One way you can help your child make friends is to provide him with plenty of opportunities to interact with peers in ways that make him feel safe. For example, many children do better in smaller groups or one-on-one. Begin by inviting one of the children from your child’s class to play with your son one-on-one (you can ask your child’s teacher to suggest who might play best with your son). You may also find that your child feels more comfortable playing in an environment that is familiar to him, like your home or backyard. Talk to your child about what makes him special and why he is a good friend. While it can be difficult as a parent to see your child struggle to make friends, it is important that you do not push your child or make him feel like there is something wrong with being introverted. The goal is to help him build confidence and learn what it means to be a friend. 

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

Child Development Expert

Jennie Ito is a mother of two and a child development consultant who specializes in children’s play and toys. Before becoming a consultant for LeapFrog, she was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Playing for Keeps” Play Initiative. Jennie earned her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.