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Shyness in Preschoolers

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Preschool-aged Kids > Shyness in Preschoolers


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Helping shy 2-year-old transition to preschool

Feb 2011

I'm wondering if anyone would be willing to share their experience and advice about helping a socially reticent kid transition to preschool. Our 2-year-old daughter is eager and enthusiastic about most everything but is uncomfortable with other kids her own age in a free-play setting (as in runs away, hides behind me, or cries when they get too close on the playground). I realize she'll grow a lot between now and September and that this might not be a problem by then, but I'd love to hear from anyone who has gone through something similar. Thanks! shy one's mom


I too had a 2 year old who was very shy - she sounds similar to your daughter. We looked at several preschools and decided on Fountainhead Montessori in Orinda - it really fit our daughters personality. A few people told us we were making a mistake and that we should send her to a ''louder'' preschool. I know my daughter and I knew that sending her to a more rambuctious school would only make her more timid. She is now almost three years old and she loves school. She did cry the second week of school each day I dropped her off - which was VERY hard - but the teachers are great and really helped her through the transition. That passed the following week and seems to be common with most children that age.

Our daughter is still on the shy side in school - in fact she is only now starting to use her words with the teachers. But it is clear that she enjoys it. When I show up to pick her up I look in the windows and she is always engaged in some activity. She is also now more relaxed in other social situations both at home and when we go out. Your daughter will be just fine! Anon


3-year old afraid of other children

Jan 2008

My ''slow to warm'' 3 year old daughter virtually shuts down when she encounters a new group of young children. I've enrolled her in two ''parent-child'' dance/movement classes because she loves to dance at home and with classmates in her small preschool. But when we get to class and she sees a small group of new kids (all around her age), she clings to me and refuses to stand up by herself, dance, or otherwise participate in any manner. We simply quit the first dance class and recently enrolled in a toddler ballet class because she loved doing ''ballet'' at home and because her friend from preschool is also enrolled. Thought the presence of a child/friend she knows well would help - but hasn't. In fact, the look of pain and anguish on her little face while all the other little girls were dancing and having a great time was more than I could bear. Any advice or experience with very sensitive introverted children - maybe this is anxiety or a very mild form of selective mutism? Jenny


I too have a daughter who at this age also froze up around anyone who was new and unfamiliar. It was sad to see because I could tell she wanted to be a part of the activities, but just could not get herself to leave my side. It was also very frustrating, for example I signed her up for a gymnastics class. The first couple of classes she sat there the whole time and did not do a single activity. I wanted to just pull her from the class if she wasn't even going to participate. We stuck with it and after just watching (not participating ) the first two classes, the kids weren't so unfamiliar and she started to participate. Now she loves the class and is confident and excited to go to them. It took her two classes to warm up but she did. What also helped was a little bribe. I know, probably not the best parenting strategy, but the idea of a little treat (Which she doesn't get very often) if she participated in EVERY activity helped motivate her past her fears. The bribe in combination with her just watching and having it all become more familiar helped her to start participating. She had fun and realized there wasn't anything to be afraid of and she got a little treat at the end. What could be better? It really helped to stick with the class and confirmed for her that she could do it and that there wasn't anything/anybody to be afraid of. It gave her a new confidence and she seems to have broken out of that very shy shell and is more outgoing in new situations. shy but more confident
There could be many reasons for your daughter's fear. I did think of Selective Mutism as I was reading your post. BIg question....Does your daughter speak to her friends, adults, teachers, Aunt Frannie and Uncle Bill, her friends parents? If she EVENTUALLY speaks to the people she is shy around, even if it takes her hours to warm up, then she does not have SM. I'd say she definately has major anxiety of some sort. Can she tell you how she feels? Why she is afraid? Does she eventually warm up and join the party, or the dancing? Its hard to diagnos at 3 yo...but it might be helpful to talk to a child therapist. Does she go to pre-school? How is she there? If you want to check out Selective Mutism, go to www.selectivemutismcenter.org You can find all the info you need there about SM.

As a child I was EXTREMELY shy. I remember literally hiding behind my mom when people would talk to me. I went to day camp and made my dad sit with me the whole time...till the last day. I finally warmed up on the last day and then didn't want to leave. It may be extreme shyness and she will come out of it but good idea to start gathering info meanwhile. Good luck. E=mail me if you want to talk more about Selective Mutism (my 12 yo son has SM). June


Maybe she isn't afraid of other children; maybe sh's afraid of herself--of being judged by her ''performance'', or that her ''performance'' isn't good enough...regardless of whether that is actually true. I was an introverted perfectionist as a child and I loved dance class, but appeared to never participate because I was too worried about whether what I was doing was ''right'' in front of the other kids and teacher.

Some kids dance/movement teachers are more skilled than others in drawing out introverted kids and making them feel comfortable in participating. Maybe you can get some recommendations from the BPN forum. Former introvert, current dancer


My older son (now six) had some similar issues when he was younger. One thing that helped in group situations in which there were unfamiliar children was getting there early so we were there before anyone else. That way we got used to the classroom/venue, we were greeted by the teacher, and we could watch each new child enter the class. He got a lot better with kid crowds and the related noise/chaos after he started preschool. Slow to warm up too!
Lots of kids that age cling to their parents when meeting a new group of boisterous kids. Can she do some of the dances while staying near you until she gets to know the other children? When she feels comfortable, she'll join in. It sounds as if she's not comfortable yet. Is it because of the other children, or because she's afraid she might make a wrong move?

Would it help to invite a few of the children to your house for a small ''dance rehearsal/party''? Many dance teachers who work with children are available for private lessons. Dance Lover


Preschool son won't speak to anyone

May 2006

Hi BPN members, My pre-schooler is a generally happy boy except when he is in the company of people (Both adults and kids)that are either strangers or those he does not see very often. HE essentially will hide behind mommy or daddy and won't speak. Communication becomes non-verbal. Shaking head for yes or no and occasional whispers. And he becomes CLINGY! When he is in the company of mom/dad, grandparents, and other caregivers, he is a vocal kid, talking, singing and acting 'normal'. Is this just a phase? This has been going on for about a year now. I wasn't too concerned ( I would rather having him shy from strangers than follow them to their cars!) however, I am getting a little tired of comments from well-meaning friends and relatives about how the little guy needs to toughen up etc. Forever Shy?


Does your son eventually warm up to these people? If he does, then he is likely just extremely shy and that is what you can tell people and try not to be concerned about their comments. If your son never warms up to certain people and shuts down when they try to speak to him or expect him to speak, he may have the social anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism (www.selectivemutismcenter.org) Selectively mute kids dont' talk to certain people in certain settings. Whatever the degree of SM (or even shyness) coaxing the child to speak or putting pressure on them in any way will increase the anxiety and you will get nowhere. The way to be with these kids is to make them more comfortable....ease the anxiety. It's tricky and complicated. When someone talks to your son and he doesn't answer you can say ''I guess he's not speaking today''...or something like that. Make it OK for your child not to speak and not that something is not right with him. Hope this is helpful. June
My daughter was exactly the same. She is now 8 and is very socially appropriate with all children and adults. The change was a gradual one. It's been fun watching her emerge from her shell.

One thing we did which may or may not have contributed to the change was make an ''Outgoing Chart''. It was a grid of 100 squares which we kept on the refridgerator. Each time she did something ''outgoing'', like answer a stranger's questions about her name or age, she got to put an X through one or more squares. Simply holding up the right number of fingers to indicate her age was worth one square, while actually saying her age was worth two squares, etc. Before we began, we had her pick a big reward that she would receive when the grid was full. In her case it was a swing set. As she got nearer to the 100th square, the desire for her swing set overtook her shyness and she started answering questions much more readily. Once she had her swing set, her sense of accomplishment was evident. Now she looks back fondly on what she achieved at an early age and appreciates her own efforts as she continues to enjoy her swing set.

We never criticized her shyness (as you indicated, others will do that), but rather framed ''outgoingness'' as something that accompanies getting older and bigger. That seemed to make sense to her. Good luck Deanna


I don't think there's anything wrong with your son. He just may be a bit more introverted. It may take him more time to warm up around strangers and he may not ever be completely comfortable around them. My daughter is the same way as your son is. I was also that way as a child and felt really hurt when people would describe shyness as a defect of some kind. In our society we tend to value extroverts more, but being an introvert isn't a deficiency. Jennifer
I was a shy preschooler exactly like you described (except female). My parents did not pressure me to be any different. It took me a long time to be less shy (like till college) but I am glad they just let me be me. Formerly shy
You have a shy child - you have to learn to let it be. They may slowly get better about it (my child has definitely gotten better), but it may never go away. They may really shine in certain situations but seem an emotional cripple in others. You can't ''harden'' truly shy children, but just be supportive. Just be prepared for when you are mortified by some of the clingy behavior, even as they get older, and understand that they might not like group situations much ever. This type of child is especially hard for the outgoing parent. The child might be disappointing in this regard but they often have wonderful dispositions otherwise -less tantrums, more thoughtful, less aggressive, pleasant children to be around Anon

Introverted 3-year-old

December 2004

Hi! I have a three year old boy who is quite shy and introverted. He refuses to talk to anyone he doesn't know well and won't participate in anything unless I am with him. I started him in preschool this year and it took several months to get him to be ok without me around. However, we went to the doctor today and he freaked out - screaming, kicking, a real mess. He is rarely away from him mom and dad and goes with his sister to the same dr all the time. I was hoping for some advise from parents who also have very shy, introverted preschoolers. I am a very outgoing person so it is difficult for me to understand what he is going through. I try so hard to prepare him for what we are doing/where we are going but he still often has a hard time. I just want him to grow up happy and healthy regardless of his shyness.. Any thoughts?


My son was incredibly shy as a three year old, and very outgoing and rambunctious as a four year old. I think it is a mormal developmental stage - I would just give it some time and try to tolerate the frustration. been there

Helping 4-year-old make friends at preschool

May 2003

My daughter is almost 4, and has been in preschool for almost a year. She attends five mornings a week. Although she enjoys the activities and teachers at preschool, and plays casually with the other children, she doesn't really have any preschool friends. I attribute this partly to the situation that when she joined the school, all the other girls were already in a very tight clique, and she was the only new one. She is also the youngest girl in the school, and there is only one boy younger. My heart breaks when she says she doesn't have any friends. (I do point out a couple friends she has out of school.) I keep her in this school because she does like to go, and I think changing would just create the same situation of being the new one.

I've tried encouraging her to play with the other girls and boys. I've called the parents of a couple of the other girls to try to set up playdates, but they have been unresponsive, and no one has ever asked me. I could call again, but I don't know if it's even polite to keep asking. Maybe it's just an organizational issue, or maybe their children don't want to play with her. (Or maybe I'm the problem?)

Several new children, both girls and boys, are starting at the beginning of July. Is there any way to coach her on how to make friend with these new kids? I remember my mother trying to give me advice on how to make friends when I was a child, and though I couldn't tell her at the time, it was seemed totally impractical because it didn't acknowledge the whole social landscape of my peers. I don't want to give that kind of advice. Also I didn't have many friends as a child, so I don't know what to tell her.

I'm seeking advice from people who were more socially adept children, or anyone with any insight. Seeking Friends


Often older kids (and they don't have to be that much older) just zone out on younger ones who just cannot keep up socially. They also have their established friends and patterns of play and for a lot of children it can be difficult to make the adjustment to include a new person.I would try and make playdates with the new incoming crowd who might be more around her age and social maturation level. The incoming mom's are more likely to be receptive as they will in most cases want to encourage and support friendships for their children in their new school. Good Luck
I'm sure your situation is similar to many other moms. I have found it difficult to 'break the ice' with other parents and so far have only been relatively successful. Like you, i don't know if it's the parents, or me, or my daughter. I am a little shy though i don't think people would usually think that of me. I think maybe it's just that it takes a certain amount of persistance and an ability to not feel 'put out' if you don't get the response that you would like. I have found that it's sometimes easier getting my own daughter playtime with the boys in her preschool as they haven't 'yet' formed those tight cliques that you described. You might also try helping out with any sort of extracurricular activities that your daughters school does. I know having school picnics and potlucks where all the parents are involved and able to socialize is a great way to meet the other parents and suggest 'again' those playdates for your daughter and other children. best of luck to you...
Why not just you yourself immediately get friendly with the new parents and invite them and their children over for a few playdates? I'm doubtful that any kind of coaching will help a 4 year old make friends....just show her by example and set up a situation where she can interact one-on-one with them. If the parents are very busy, you can also just offer to host the playdate yourself. Playdates really helped our daughter alot at age 4.

That being said, our daughter also had trouble making friends at preschool at age 4. Switching preschools did it for us we found better teachers more able to facilitate kids' interactions, friendlier families eager for playdates, and more compatible kids. Or maybe she was just suddenly ready. So you might want to consider it, especially as lots of places will be starting up again anew in the fall. Karen


Shy 3 year old having a tough time at preschool

April 2003

My shy sweet sensitive three year old boy is having a tough time at preschool. He is very chatty and outgoing at home, but in other situations esp outside of the home can be very shy. At preschool, he is not talking very much at all (a few words a day) and usually I pick him up, is playing by himself or just wandering around (by himself). Up until now, he has told me that he likes school and usually wants to stay when I come to pick him up, but recently he has become clingy when I drop him off and last week was holding me and crying. Today, he thought (incorrectly) he was going to school and almost burst into tears, saying he wanted to stay home. I'm thinking that he is feeling very left out. He talks a lot about friends at school, but he can't name anyone special and i don't see him playing with any one child. The teachers are very warm and caring, and there is an excellent teacher/child ration and the program seems very interesting and stimulating. I guess my question is what can I do to help my very shy child deal with school? Can anyone recommend some books? And although it is a very good school, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking something very small (like 5 kids) and preferably diverse would be better. Thanks


Maybe you could try having playdates outside of school with some of your son's classmates. It might be easier for him to form friendships in a one-on-one setting, and those friendships would hopefully carry over to school. The teachers could probably suggest boys (or girls) that might be the most compatible with your son. Stephanie
My shy 5 year old daughter also had a tough time at preschool. The second year was better than the first, but if I had to do it over, I would have put her in a smaller preschool. Here are some things that have helped us: focus on the positive things that he likes about school; don't fret too much about his playing with other kids at school--it shouldn't be a performance thing. It's ok for your kid to like playing by himself some or alot as long as he's happy. Ask the teachers to encourage other kids (occasionally) to come to him and engage him as opposed to always having him engage others. Have lots of playdates with kids your child likes. While I frequently felt a bit disappointed that playdates that went well at home didn't always transfer to school interactions, it did, I think, give my daughter some confidence in the area of positive interactions with another child in a less threatening setting (on her turf). Find one teacher and one or two children that your child bonds with and encourage those relationships. Shy kids tend to develop special relationships with one teacher and one or two kids. While paying attention to the anxiety your child feels around social interactions, also don't blow it out of proportion. Many shy children outgrow it to some degree. Also, check out the books: the highly sensitive person and ''please understand me'' and check out the INFP learning style to see if this seems to fit your child. Also, find other group settings such as classes that your child enjoys to draw friends from. Mom of a shy kid

Shy 3 year old having a tough time at preschool

April 2003

My shy sweet sensitive three year old boy is having a tough time at preschool. He is very chatty and outgoing at home, but in other situations esp outside of the home can be very shy. At preschool, he is not talking very much at all (a few words a day) and usually I pick him up, is playing by himself or just wandering around (by himself). Up until now, he has told me that he likes school and usually wants to stay when I come to pick him up, but recently he has become clingy when I drop him off and last week was holding me and crying. Today, he thought (incorrectly) he was going to school and almost burst into tears, saying he wanted to stay home. I'm thinking that he is feeling very left out. He talks a lot about friends at school, but he can't name anyone special and i don't see him playing with any one child. The teachers are very warm and caring, and there is an excellent teacher/child ration and the program seems very interesting and stimulating. I guess my question is what can I do to help my very shy child deal with school? Can anyone recommend some books? And although it is a very good school, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking something very small (like 5 kids) and preferably diverse would be better. Thanks anon


Maybe you could try having playdates outside of school with some of your son's classmates. It might be easier for him to form friendships in a one-on-one setting, and those friendships would hopefully carry over to school. The teachers could probably suggest boys (or girls) that might be the most compatible with your son. Stephanie
My shy 5 year old daughter also had a tough time at preschool. The second year was better than the first, but if I had to do it over, I would have put her in a smaller preschool. Here are some things that have helped us: focus on the positive things that he likes about school; don't fret too much about his playing with other kids at school--it shouldn't be a performance thing. It's ok for your kid to like playing by himself some or alot as long as he's happy. Ask the teachers to encourage other kids (occasionally) to come to him and engage him as opposed to always having him engage others. Have lots of playdates with kids your child likes. While I frequently felt a bit disappointed that playdates that went well at home didn't always transfer to school interactions, it did, I think, give my daughter some confidence in the area of positive interactions with another child in a less threatening setting (on her turf). Find one teacher and one or two children that your child bonds with and encourage those relationships. Shy kids tend to develop special relationships with one teacher and one or two kids. While paying attention to the anxiety your child feels around social interactions, also don't blow it out of proportion. Many shy children outgrow it to some degree. Also, check out the books: the highly sensitive person and ''please understand me'' and check out the INFP learning style to see if this seems to fit your child. Also, find other group settings such as classes that your child enjoys to draw friends from. Mom of a shy kid

Shy 3 yr old worries me

December 2002

My 3 1/2 yr old daughter is so extremely shy that it's starting to worry me. Once she feels comfortable she is very outgoing and has no problems making friends or interacting socially. The problem is whenever we arrive someplace new or people come over she hides and becomes mute - sometimes for 5 minutes or up to 2 hrs! Last weekend, some friends came over and she buried herself face down in the couch and when I went to check on her she was sweating she was so worried/scared. Even if her grandparents or playmates come over she acts shy for a little while. I'm convinced it's all a big act but I don't know how to deal with it. We're always telling people that ask what's wrong ''oh, she's just shy.'' I don't know whether it's better to ignore her act or try some other approach. fyi - we just moved here and she's had a lot of adjustments but also exhibited this behavior before we moved - now it's worse. Any ideas/advice would be welcomed. Monica


I would believe your daughter that she is really anxious around these situations. She's not putting on an act. The fact that your daughter eventually warms up makes me think she does not have a social phobia called Selective Mutism, where children (in different degrees) usually don't talk to certain people (and never warm up). My son, now 7 1/2 was also extremely shy at 3 and 4. I figured out at that time that he does have Selective Mutism. He would cling to me for hours, depending on the situation, and then usually warm up at the end of the event, and then be fine. If people were visiting us, he would hide behind me or stay out of the room. If anyone talked to him he would totally shut down and withdraw. Now, at 7 1/2 his warm up time is much less, he talks and warms up to most kids pretty quickly, still only speaks to a few adults, but he's much more relaxed. Whether your daughter has SM or is just extremely shy, chances are (usually), that she will grow out of it. What you can do to help her is not pressure her, but also not make it easy for her not to speak. Find ways to let her know she's safe, but encourage her to talk to people. Also, depending on the person, their interaction with her should be that they have no expectations from her and it's OK not to speak. Maybe she could sit on your lap next time this situation arises so you could talk softly to her and let her know it's OK. Rather than excusing her by saying ''She's shy'', when someone talks to her you could ask if her she'd like to answer. If she doesn't, say to the person ''I guess not today''. Above all, don't pressure her, it makes the anxiety worse. Some things we do with our son which have helped, if someone hands him something and he won't take it (candy, etc), he doesn't get to have it, rather than me taking it and then giving it to him. Also he used to whisper to us when a person he didn't talk to was present. We told him he had to talk in a normal boy voice that he coudln't whisper. Now he doesn't whisper anymore, he speaks to us and has gotten so he speaks to us in his regular voice in most situations. This may be slightly different than your daughter, but what I learned is that by the time SM kids are 5 or so, many of these mute patterns are set because we parents, thinking our children are just shy, protect them to the point of making it easy and safe for them not to speak. It's tricky. I'd be happy to talk to you more about this. Check out the Selective Mutism web site so you can see the extreme of behaviors and be better able to diagnose and help your daughter. Good luck. June
It sounds to me like your 3-year-old is of a temperament type called ''slow to warm up.'' If you haven't done any reading about temperament, I can recommend the book ''Raising a Spirited Child.'' Being slow to warm up is not an act, some children just take time to feel comfortable in their environment. My daughter was the same way, even going to places she was familiar with filled with people she knew. It can be tiresome, but forcing her to separate only makes it worse. I found that it helped to arrive places early, so she could be there as others arrive; it seemed to be easier for her than being among the last to arrive. They do grow out of it as they learn to cope with new situations. Give her time and patience and don't make it a big deal, and eventually it will get manageable. And remember, this is not an entirely bad thing. Hanging back, assessing the situation, and waiting before jumping in can be very useful in later life. alice
Shyness is generally ''acting'' in a way - it gets reinforced by all the attention shy kids get when adults try to coax them out of it. It can help to practice ordinary social situations, pretending to be and meet different people. Also to tell people ''she'll take a minute to warm up, so we'll wait till she's ready''and turn off the attention. fiona
Your daughter's behavior may be partially attention-seeking, but she also may need extra support from you in various settings. What I found worked for my son was to switch from using the term shy, to saying he was ''slow to warm up.'' This meant that he may feel shy at times, but when he was ready, he could join in. Your daughter may need you to be on her side, saying ''she will watch for a while and stay by my side.'' I well remember the frustration of having a 2 hour playdate, and never having my son join in. Now as a 7 year old, he still watches for a bit before joining in, but I notice that at times, he never joins in and it seems to be because the chemistry is not right with the other child. I recommend learning more about temperaments. jen
My daughter, now 7, sounds just like yours at that age. I realized she wasn't ''shy'', but slow to warm. Yes, eventually they get in there in their own time. By the time she was 5 and 6 she really blossomed. I didn't want to label her shy (it's a long story), so I told people in a kind and clear way ''just give her a little time and she'll play when she's ready'' and tried hard not to give it too much enery after that. I also tried not to be so judgemental of my own child. It simply was who she was. My second child is quite the opposite and just gets in there, so I knew it was just my first childs temperment. I did notice that changes (like in moving) make things worse for a while. Be patient and understanding. Ask her before a social situation occurs if there is anything you can do to support or help her. Anon

Shy child and cliques at preschool

March 2004

My son is very shy and after two years in preschool has not made a single friend. I have tried arriving early to pick him up to facilitate him playing with other kids and I have tried individual playdates, but nothing seems to work. The whole time, he continuously states that he doesn't want to go to school, but wants to stay home with me. Lately, I have observed very cliquey behaviour by the other boys, that excludes my son. He gets sand dumped on him and toys taken away, and because of his personality, doesn't say anything. Should I even keep him in school? Every time I pick him up, he is by himself. He is experiencing all the negatives of group play and not learning how to socialize at all. I feel like pulling him out right now and maybe trying a different school next year. anon


Please consider taking your son out of that preschool right away and trying to find a more friendly and supportive one. Two years is too long to go without making any friends. We had an experience at a preschool that didn't seem to be working for our child and took her out after 2 months, and I now feel that we waited too long. By that time it seemed like her whole personality had changed, but after a few months she was back to her happy outgoing self. I have talked with other parents (my brother, friends) who say that they regret not taking their child out of a preschool where they didn't seem to be happy. I think any place that allowed the kind of mean and cliquish behavior you describe to go on without intervention is not a very supportive environment for your child. Good luck!
Move your son out of that preschool tomorrow. It's a toxic environment. My son had a similar situation in 3rd grade, and when we moved him to a new school he began to flourish. I think of it now as like a plant that was growing in bad soil and its' growth was becoming weak and twisted, then when repotted in fertile soil began to grow strong and healthy. I feel guilt that I was not able to see the harmful culture (for all the kids, no matter what their stauts) of the place and regret that I didn't move him sooner. Good luck. mom who learned the hard way
i would definitely make a visit to your son's preschool during school hours to observe how effectively the teachers help facilitate your son's friendships. do they tactfully and gently try to bring him together with other children with similar interests and energy levels when they are playing on their own (more appropriate than asking a group of children to simultaneously be accepting of a new friend)? i would hope they would if they are aware of your concern for him right now. or do they let him play on his own? is your son truly sad about not having a ''friend'' or is this more your issue? are the teachers aware of your concerns? they can be most helpful. however, at the same time, i think it is important for teachers to respect the delicate nature of other childrens' budding (and possibly first) friendships in the preschool setting. sometimes it may seem ''cliquish'' but nobody cannot insist that all children be accepted into all groups at all times. with all said, i am willing to bet that there are definitely periods when other children truly enjoy your son's company and are playing with him. not all kids in preschool have a ''best'' friend, and if it appears so, many ''friendships'' are based on parental friendships, carpool arrangements, etc.

it is possible that there truly isn't a child with a similar age, temperament AND interest as your son, especially if your preschool is small. i've noticed at my son's school, the 5 year old boys play together and the newer 3 and 4 year old boys play together. and then within the age groupings, they sort of gravitate to others with similar activity levels for the most part. i truly believe learning how to play with other children is an important skill for a preschooler to enjoy by the end of his 2-3 years there. at the same time, i believe there are kids who naturally prefer to play solo for the majority of the day and may enjoy the company of a friend or the class as a group only from time to time. good luck! i hope this has been helpful to you. fellow preschool mom


Is 4-year-old shy or socially immature?

May 2003

I am interested in hearing from parents of children who have had to work through the shy vs socially immature dilemma. My soon to be 4 year old daughter has always been shy. Now nearly a year into pre-school she has still not made any strong connection with her peers, speaks little to anyone at school. We are already debating the merits of having her start kindergarten at 6 years old (she was born in July). But we are concerned that her personality maybe just a shy one that won't really change no matter how many years we delay her entrance into Kindergarten. She is outgoing at home with her 5 year old sister. Independent, focusses easily on tasks (esp. art) and smart. We are not concerned that she has a shy personality but we are concerned about making the best choices for her so that she will have a better chance of success in the school social environment. How do you know whether it's shyness or social immaturity? Does holding a shy child back really make a difference or not? Thanks for any insights. anon for my child's sake


This weeks's posting had several inquiries about preschoolers being shy or reserved and parents wondering about how to help them develop friendships, etc. My first stop would be a conversation with the preschool teacher to check in on your child developmentally, and if the climate in the preschool is appropriate for your child, and if the teachers are understanding of the social challenges your child faces. I think it is really important for the parents to feel confident that the teacher understands the different shades of shyness and being reserved and can help children broker friendships and navigate the negotiations and social interaction of playtime. My child was/is a little shy, ''slow to warm up''. Her preschool teacher facilitated the kids making friends and helped negotiate the boudaries. She considered that one of the biggest parts of her work. Her biggest advice to kids was not to ask permission of other kids to play...just join in...just do what they do (and let the teacher set the rules). Plus, our brief exchanges in the morning or at pickup time helped me understand when to ''be there for her'' and when to expect more of her, and to understand that the child needs to find ways to make connections that are right for him. We didn't always get it right, but the teacher's insights were so valuable for us. I am so glad we had this preschool teacher. Also, it helps to be confident and to know that your child will outgrow some of this.

An extra year of preschool may be the right choice, especially if the teacher is sensitive to the child's developmental needs.

As for the parent wondering about play dates....the first couple of play dates, I did stay at the house or we arranged play dates at the park. One of my daughter's friends preferred to come to our house and my daughter didn't want to go to other people's houses, so that was a fine match. Her parents stayed sometimes. Have tea or coffee, it is a nice time to get to know each other, if you have the time. Only one time did my child have a playdate at another child's house, where I stayed and I knew it didn't work for them that I was there...too much of an intrusion. I could totally understand and we didn't do play dates unless that child came to our house. Most parents were very understanding. Gradually, a handful of friendships developed so that the parents knew my child would transition to play readiness in a short time. It was good for my child to be a friend's house and in the safe care of another adult. We got to the point where we could do a drop off with a brief conversation of the parents...kids go play, be back later.

Sometimes it was tedious and a crunch on my time, but in retrospect, the time passes so quickly, the ''investment'' of time was worth it. Been there


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