Barbara, my almost-6-year-old grandson plays by himself at recess. He had one boy he played with before break but since their return he plays by himself again. He is very intelligent but has a great imagination.
Kids say hi to him both coming and going into school. Should we be a little bothered or can we help him interact somehow? He is very nice, not mean or anything, and has a baby brother at home he has to share with, which does present a problem at times. Do you have some advice for us?
From, Janeen the Grandma, Lodi
Some children are what we like to call "slow to warm up." (Back in the day, they were called shy). I like the slow-to-warm up description because it covers a range of possibilities, including that they are socially immature, meaning they don't quite yet get the ins and outs of social interaction, or that they are overwhelmed by the noise and stimulation of a particular social scene, like the playground at recess, but do fine in quieter settings. Other possibilities: Your grandson's imagination enables him to have a great time on his own. (That's very different from saying he's living in a world of his own; you'd have other indications for that, including from teachers.)
Does this tendency of his to be by himself at recess make him sad? Is it something he talks about at home? Does he feel left out? Or is it something he doesn't even notice, something that makes you feel sad watching him? These are two very different scenarios.
Have you talked to the teacher? That's the most important single thing you can do because she/he not only observes him every day in various situations but also has a basis of comparison from however many years of teaching. At this point in the school year, nearly three months in, she should be able to tell you if his tendency to be by himself is a problem or not. (Some children find that having a lot of choices during free play is overwhelming; they go back to the same activity day after day because that is a source of comfort.)
Keep in mind that these are not bad tendencies, they are simply tendencies that make your grandson the individual he is. In our society, we place a lot of value on sociability and expect it of our kids from a young age. For many children, it's something they need to grow into. If what's going on with your grandson is more than just needing time to become socially more mature and adept, your teacher can be the starting point.
Definitely ask the teacher if she can play matchmaker: Is there a child in the class, girl or boy, who might enjoy a friendship with your grandson & vice versa. It's possible they are both slow to warm up and just need a little push, including, perhaps, a play date that the parents might arrange.
And let's not forget the baby brother at home. If this tendency to be by himself is something that's new since the baby arrived, that might signal an anxiety or insecurity more than a slow-to-warm-up tendency. Often that can be ameliorated by mom and/or dad setting aside a few minutes each day to spend with him doing something he enjoys and by saying explicitly, "This is our time together. Since the baby came, I've been pretty busy and I want to make sure we still have time together, just you and me." Arrange it so that nothing interrupts this time, not even the cell ringing or the baby crying.
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