Never Giving Up – musings on understanding friendship

They’re my friend
They’re my friend.
How about they can be all of our friends.
No, I want them just be my friend.

– Studio Blue children last year (2016-17)

Friendships can truly be trying. It is a big developmental step to move from playing with one friend to playing with more than one friend at the same time. In trios, for example, there’s an odd person out, so like the uneven legs of a stool, a trio sometimes tips over into conflict and disappointment.

– adapted from the PBS Parents article “The Laws of Friendships”

In thinking of our youngest and oldest children and where they are in experiencing friendship, a moment occurred recently where the teachers from both Studio Blue and Studio Purple were able to come together and share some dialog around the developing understanding of friendship in the context of developmental abilities of each group.

On a beautiful snowy morning in the back playspace, Studio Blue and Studio Purple came together to play. The scene unfolds with Asha and Sam standing engaged by the fence, playing “the pushing game.” In enters four-year-old Britton, who approaches the space of the pushing game. An exchange occurs and Britton leaves, appearing confused by the look on her face. (Although this moment did not necessarily jump out initially to us, it became striking later when the pieces came together more clearly.) Asha and Sam move away from their game to join a Studio Purple teacher building a snowman with a small group of other children. Meanwhile Britton circles the group as if composing her entry…

“I can play with two friends at one time. Do you want me to teach you?”

Asha replies, “Well I can’t and I don’t want to learn.”

At three years, three months, Asha is not being defiant, she is stating a fact. She is not developmentally ready to take the step that Britton is offering. Britton, now at 4 1/2, had practiced and worked through this very stage all last year in Blue.

This speaks to the supportive work we do every year in Studio Blue with children turning three, as well as the work that children 4 & 5 years old in Studio Purple are doing. They are evolving as they grow older. While younger, our threes are emerging slowly from their cocoon of egocentricity; so, too, are our fours and fives, albeit a bit less mired in being “all about me” and beginning to take note that interaction with other children is important and valuable too.  They often are at a place where there is more comfort in navigating play with more than one.

“The way they think about relationships is qualitatively different at different ages.”

-Children’s Growing Friendships
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.

What does “friend” mean?

“… Never giving up.” – Ada, Studio Purple