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4 y.o. struggling with school playtimes

(9 Posts)
timeplease Thu 29-Sep-11 20:47:29

My ds F, who was 4 in August, has just started reception part-time. We considered deferring his start (he's quite young for his age in some ways as well as being young for his year) but eventually decided he could cope starting part time and that he might actually enjoy the struture of school (his nursery was very unstructured, which I think he at times found overwhelming).

So - all going OK so far. He looks forward to going, plays 'schools' when we get home, likes the teachers, seems excited about learning etc... But he's really struggling with playtimes and friendships. He's been very slow to develop socially and really hasn't 'got' the friendship thing at all. I think he still finds other children slightly bemusing and, while he has great conversation with adults, finds it a bit hard to relate to his peers. So playtimes, where everyone else is running around and seems to know what to do, are hard for him. So apparently he cries when his teacher and the teaching assistant go inside (they've said they're trying to withdraw more at playtimes now). There's another member of staff on duty but not sure what support they offer him.

I'm meeting with the teacher tomorrow to discuss (for the 2nd time this week - 1st time left me with more questions). Not sure she's too happy about me arranging a 2nd meeting but I need to know I've done all I can to help him. I think the teacher thinks he'll soon get more confidence and start joining in. I'm less convinced. I think he needs a lot of guidance and direction about how to make friends and participate, and I'm really not sure where he's going to get that from. I've been surprised how much they're just left to their own devices in the playground - obviously suits the more confident and boisterous but others are clearly suffering.

Any ideas on what I can reasonably ask of the teacher; any suggestions about what the school could offer/what other schools do - eg organised games, equipment to play with; and any ideas about how I can help him develop those social skills? All thoughts much appreciated.

pilates Thu 29-Sep-11 20:56:36

Do your school not have buddies?

They are normally children from Y5 & Y6 who go in and help in the playground and encourage group games.

theliverpoolone Thu 29-Sep-11 21:33:13

I could have written your post word-for-word timeplease! My dd is in exactly the same situation - late summer birthday, just started reception part-time, found pre-school too unstructured and overwhelming, very confident with adults but really struggles to mix with other children and develop friendships. She found outside playtime so hard in preschool that I pulled her out from that part of the day, so that it didn't make the whole experience too upsetting for her.

I really feel for her at the moment as the couple of children in her class who she did know, have lots of other friends and seem to have 'dropped' her for their other mates, and she just doesn't have the confidence to try to join in with them. In our case, there do seem to be teachers present at playtime, and I think she's playing the 'organised' activities that they support, with whichever other children join in (something with string and a ball, that requires 4 children to play????!, although sometimes she says she played bat and ball just 'with the teacher' sad. Which is good that she's not on her own, but doesn't seem to be helping her develop a friendship group that she can run off and play generally with. Sorry, there aren't any words of advice there, but lots of empathy and support as I'm going through this too! I wish your ds or someone like him was in my dd's class for her to buddy up with! I've tried to suggest to dd that if she sees anyone else on their own perhaps she could ask them to play, but I think if there are, she's not noticing them, and also she gets very defensive and won't talk about it if I do try asking her who she's played with etc, so I'm having to not push too much.

The other thing, which you may also be finding, is because she is actually confident talking to adults, and in teacher-led situations, they don't seem to be taking my concerns about her lack of ability to make friendships as seriously as if she was shy in all situations. Like you, I'm not convinced this is just going to happen for her without more direct support - what I'd like them to do is buddy her up with some suitable (ie more gentle, supportive) kids, for activities both in the classroom and playground, and hope that this leads to those kids seeking dd out to play with at other times.

Please do post with how you get on with the teacher tomorrow, I'd love to know (and share any new ideas!).

3monkeys Thu 29-Sep-11 21:38:47

Is he bothered? My DS1 was like this for a few weeks although it seemed like longer at the time!
I was devastated but he didn'tseem too upset.
School did very little to help but eventually he made a few friends who he played with then for years. He's now 12 and just started senior school. He still just has 2 or 3 friends but is happy with that

It seems really hard wheneveryone else is talking about how well their child is doing

timeplease Mon 03-Oct-11 20:12:29

Hi, thanks so much for the replies. Liverpoolone, so pleased to hear we're not the only ones. Met with teacher again and I'm still not very reassured. She just seems to think he'll get there, and he's getting better (ie not crying!) but I'm not convinced. Also, I now know from talking to other parents that there are at least 3 other kids in his class who are finding playtimes scary/overwhelming. So the schools' attitude seems a bit complacent.

Teacher said they do lots of work in pairs/groups etc in the classroom but that they mix up the groups - she didn't seem keen to buddy him up with one particular person. I'm going to try and arrange playdates etc but I'd better get in soon as I can't imagine most of the kids will be interested in coming to play as they're all making proper friends already.

Apparently they do have a playground buddy scheme, which seems to be a group of year 5/6 kids that organise games at lunchtime, but not at morning playtime.

I really think there's loads more they can do but it's really hard to go wading in and telling experienced teachers what they should be doing. The teacher is very nice but not sure she's offering what we need at the moment. And, because he's bright and learning and enjoying lessons, she doesn't see it as a huge problem.

I guess we need to just keep gently nagging. Or should I be more stroppy. The thing is, I dont' really know what we need/what to ask for.

3monkeys, I know what you mean. He actually doesn't seem as bothered as I am. And maybe he'll always be a loner. But at the moment, I need to feel I've done all I can to help him.

How are you getting on, Liverpoolone?

Fairenuff Mon 03-Oct-11 22:13:48

I think the teacher's advice to give it some time is spot on. It's very difficult to 'make' children play if they don't want to. If playground games are adult led, then the child is still not learning to mix by himself. If he's not unduly bothered at this stage, it's probably best to allow him to just observe the children playing and join in when he feels ready.

As to making friends, most children will be happy to play with any of their peers as long as that child plays nicely and doesn't hurt or upset them. He won't miss out and you don't need to 'get in quick' to arrange playdates.

I have seen children like this and they do eventually join in, mix well, have friends and enjoy playtime. Some take longer than others but as long as the supervising staff are aware and keeping an eye on him, your son will be fine.

DeWe Tue 04-Oct-11 09:25:09

Most children aren't making "fixed" friends in year R ime, particularly the boys.
I think it was part way through year 1 and into year 2 they really started being in their own groups.Both my dd's reception form had a couple of friendship groups that remained basically the same (but did have some movement in and out) but the rest of them got thoroughly mixed up by the time they left infants.
It's not too late. smile

theliverpoolone Tue 04-Oct-11 11:12:21

Hi timeplease. Sorry you didn't feel reassured by the teacher. I thought fairenuff's post was very helpful actually, as I've been worrying like you about why teachers will help those who need it with things like their actual learning, changing for PE etc, but are less likely to help those who need it with their social skills.

Could you arrange playdates with the other children who you say are also struggling with playtimes? Perhaps if they got to know each other better they might then be more likely to buddy up at playtimes. Is your ds playing with other children in the classroom?

I've stopped asking my dd about whether she's playing with anyone at playtimes for the moment, as it wasn't helping either of us - she didn't like me asking, and I just worried more if she said no-one! So she may well still be on her own, but I'll leave it another week or two before asking again - unless she tells me of her own accord. I still worry that when I take her in the mornings the other children all seem to be going off playing with their pals, while dd just looks for activities to do on her own sad, but maybe as fairenuff said, it just takes some longer, and it won't mean she's excluded for ever if she's not joining in at this stage. I have been thinking about arranging playdates, but am not sure who with - won't other children think it a bit odd if they're invited on a playdate with someone who they don't normally play with?! - and I don't really know the other mums other than to smile/nod at.

Do PM me if you'd like to talk more outside the thread! smile

pilates Tue 04-Oct-11 20:13:14

Sometimes I found with my children you would ask them who they played with and they would say "nobody" and then later on in the conversation they would let slip they had played with XXXXX or XXXXXX. It's still very early days. Is there a quite area allocated in the playground? Do they have bikes/scooters and other playground equipment to play with? Having equipment to play with can take the pressure off playing with other children.

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