Friendship-building activities help children in K-3 develop strong social skills. When relationships are an important factor in education, kids succeed in school and life.
Friendship Building Activities for the K-3 Classroom
There is more to a classroom than just learning academic material. In fact, before students reach their full potential in academics, they must feel comfortable and accepted.
Building relationship is crucial. As teachers, we are aware that we need to build rapport with our students to be effective. But, beyond that, how can we foster relationships between the students in our classroom?
Relationships are vital for students to feel as though they are part of a community. This is a community where students feel like they are part of a group, not outsiders.
Research suggests that when students feel as though they have good friendships within the class, they feel confident and less stressed.
But helping students learn to develop friendships has implications beyond the classroom. Developing the skill of being a friend to all will serve our nation and the world in the future.
How do we encourage friendship in the classroom?
Like all the other subjects we teach, friendship must be taught and practiced. There are many ways that we can incorporate lessons and opportunities for practice into our daily plans and morning meetings.
Although it may seem like a small thing, building friendships between students may be the very thing that allows a student to be more open to the lessons you teach in the classroom.
Below are some simple, effective ways to encourage friendship in the classroom.
1. Teach Friendship Characteristics
- Direct Instruction – There are some great lesson plans out there to help you with direct instruction about friendship. You may want to explore this SEL lesson plan on friendships, already written for you, that includes activities to go with it.
- Friendship Heart – Place a big heart on the wall. Discuss the characteristics of a good friend. Then give each student a heart with another student’s name. Have them write a positive adjective describing that student and place it on the giant heart.
- “I Can Be a Friend” – Have each student complete the sentence “I Can Be a Friend By…” on cardstock heart. Let the students share their answers. Decorate the room with their friendship hearts.
2. Get To Know One Another
- Try any of the 30 get to know you games kids will love! They will help them learn about each other and you will learn more about your students!
- Friendship Scavenger Hunt – Kids love this game which lets them find things in common with other kids in the class. Grab a FREE copy HERE!
- Interviews – As a class, come up with some questions to help learn about others. Divide the class into pairs and let them interview each other, recording the answers on their paper.
- Teach empathy – A key component to being a friend is taking an interest in others, being socially aware, and empathizing with others. Letting kids share their feelings while the class listens is a good way to start building that awareness.
- “Get to Know You” BINGO – This is just one of many get-to-know-you games that you can play in the classroom. Pre-fill a blank bingo card with different pictures/words. Then have students walk around and find someone who has one of those pictures in real life. For instance, if there is a picture of a little dog, the student must walk around until they find someone who has a little dog at home. That person then signs the square. Whoever gets a row (or whole card) filled up first wins.
- Hot Potato – Have an object that you pass around, and when the timer goes off, the student with the potato speaks.
- Move If – There are many names and variations of this game. Once again, have chairs in a circle – enough so that all students but one get one. Have the chairs facing inward with one student in the middle. The student says something like, “I have a dog,” and all students with a dog have to get up and move to another chair, leaving another student in the middle, who may have a hamster, and the movement continues.
3. Emphasize Kindness
- Kindness Challenges – Use kindness challenge calendars to get kids actively showing kindness by completing the specified task.
- Kindness Cards – Brainstorm with students ways to be kind or use the kindness task cards found as part of the kindness unit for K-2. Inspire ideas such as smiling at someone or sitting with someone new at lunch. Kids play this game by selecting a task card or idea from the list and completing the task. Encourage them to complete as many tasks as possible each day.
- Bucket Fillers – Teach children to be “bucket fillers,” not “bucket dippers” by showing kindness to those around them. There are lots of ideas for bucket filling activities.
- Secret Valentine – Assign a secret valentine to each student. On Valentine’s Day, everyone brings a little gift for their secret pal.
- Thank You Notes – Have students write a thank you note to someone, such as a bus driver, a cafeteria worker, or a family member. It will brighten the recipient’s day and teach the student about being thoughtful.
4. Foster Teamwork
- Mend a broken heart – Have groups of students put together the puzzle pieces of a heart to make it whole. The teamwork will be valuable.
- Blindfold Obstacle Course – One of many social skills games is the blindfold obstacle course. Set up an obstacle course. One person will be blindfolded while the rest of the group works together to communicate how to get through the obstacle course.
- Birthday Lineup – Have students work together to put themselves in order by birthdays, Jan-Dec. To make it more challenging, tell the kids they must do it without speaking!
5. Books About Friendship
Literacy plays a role in teaching children about friendship. When kids see examples in books, they can relate to the situations and learn how to act in similar circumstances. Plus, books are often more engaging than just listening to a teacher tell them what they should do!
There are tons of books out there to encourage friendship in your classroom. Here are a few of my favorites:
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry – A story about kindness in friendship, and helping those you care about to get out of sticky situations.
How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson – Kids will learn funny examples of how NOT to act in order to be socially acceptable.
Making Friends is an Art by Julia Cook – Kids need friends, and this book will help children who struggle to make and keep them.
How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Marc Brown – Show children some helpful examples of how to be a good friend with this entertaining book. It offers a great overview.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson – If you’re teaching a lesson on kindness and respect in relationships, this book will help. The character of Jeremy became a neighborhood enemy until his dad taught him how to make an enemy pie.
Hunter’s Best Friend at School by Laura Elliot – Two best friends, Hunter and Stripe, enjoy spending time together and doing similar things. However, trouble starts when Stripe makes poor decisions.
You Will be My Friend by Peter Brown
Duck and Goose by Tad Hills – Kids figure out how to share and work together by watching Duck and Goose struggle together but form a strong friendship in the end.
Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border – This book will encourage lonely kids who will relate to the character of Peanut Butter.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister – A classic in classrooms everywhere, this book teaches children about sharing as a means to forming friendships.
So, are you feeling inspired? Teaching friendship and kindness really are crucial to creating inclusive learning environments.
Beyond that, the skills of being kind, making friends, and treating everyone with respect will make our students successful community members in the future.
What an awesome responsibility we have! For all these reasons, let’s start encouraging friendships in our classrooms!
Friendship-Building Activities for K-5
Create meaningful learning opportunities with these kindness resources!
FREE “Ways to Be a Friend” Storybook
To get you started check out this FREE resource – “Ways to Be a Friend” storybook, which includes a digital and printable mini-book to color.
Download a free copy of storybook for kids to color or read or use the version online in Google Slides. Click the image below to sign-up for your free storybook!
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