Friendship-building activities help children in K-3 develop strong social skills, make new friends, and feel secure with peers at school. When relationships are important 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. Before students reach their full academic potential, they must feel comfortable and accepted.
Building relationships is crucial. As teachers, we must 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 like they are part of a community. This community is where students feel like they are part of a group, not outsiders.
Research suggests that kids feel confident and less stressed when they feel like they have a bond and good friendships within the class.
However, 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.
Table of Contents
- Friendship Building Activities for the K-3 Classroom
- How do we encourage friendship in the classroom?
- 1. Teach Friendship Characteristics
- 2. Get To Know One Another
- 3. Emphasize Kindness
- 4. Foster Teamwork
- 5. Books About Friendship
- Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
- How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson
- Making Friends is an Art by Julia Cook
- How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Marc Brown
- Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
- Hunter’s Best Friend at School by Laura Elliot
- Duck and Goose by Tad Hills
- Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border
- The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
- In Summary
- Friendship-Building Activities for K-5
- More Friendship-Building Ideas
How do we encourage friendship in the classroom?
Like all the other subjects we teach, friendship must be taught and practiced. We can incorporate fun activities, lessons, and opportunities for practice into our daily plans, classroom activities, and morning meetings in many ways.
Although it may seem small, building friendships between students may be the very thing that allows students 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 to help you with direct instruction about friendship. You may want to explore the SEL lesson plans 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 a 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 to help kids build healthy friendships! They will help them learn about each other, and you will learn more about your students!
Friendship Scavenger Hunt – Kids love this friendship game, which lets them find things in common with other kids in the class. Grab a FREE copy HERE!
Interviews – As a grou, 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 an excellent way to build that awareness.
“Get to Know You” BINGO – Pre-fill a blank bingo card with different pictures/words. Then, have students walk around and find someone with 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 with a 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,” 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 acts of kindness tasks.
Kindness Cards – Brainstorm ways to be kind to students 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 scenario role-play 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. Everyone brings a little gift for their secret pal on Valentine’s Day.
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 assemble the puzzle pieces of a heart to make it whole. The teamwork will be valuable. This a great opportunity to discuss social situations that might hurt our feelings and teach about conflict resolution!
Blindfold Obstacle Course – One of many team-building activities 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. Tell the kids they must do it without speaking to make it more challenging!
5. Books About Friendship
Literacy plays a role in teaching children about friendship. Children who see examples and qualities of a good friend in books can relate to the situations and learn how to act in similar circumstances. 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.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
It is 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 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.
Show children some helpful examples of how to be a good friend with this entertaining book. It offers an excellent 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.
Duck and Goose by Tad Hills
Kids learn to share and work together by watching Duck and Goose struggle and forming solid friendships.
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 to form friendships.
So, are you feeling inspired? Teaching friendship and kindness 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 a tremendous responsibility we have! For all these reasons, let’s start encouraging friendships in our classrooms!
Friendship-Building Activities for K-5
Friendship Lessons and Activities
Try the Social-Emotional Learning K-2 Relationships Lessons and Activities by Proud to be Primary. It includes five weeks of friendship lessons and activities. Give your students a leg up when it comes to creating friendships and forming healthy relationships in the classroom.
Teach upper elementary? I’ve got some great friendship skills lessons and resources for you.
Create meaningful learning opportunities with any of these friendship resources!
Check out all Proud to be Primary’s Social-Emotional Learning resources.
FREE “Ways to Be a Friend” Storybook
To get 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 the storybook for kids to color, read, or use the version online in Google Slides. Click the image below to sign up for your free storybook!
More Friendship-Building Ideas
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FREE Social Emotional Learning Email Series
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