Relationship-building activities

In early childhood education, children learn best through games and activities. Play is their work. It’s how they build skills and learn new concepts. You can help your children build positive, healthy relationships and promote friendship skills with the following activities:

Trust fall

As the name would suggest, trust falls are a popular trust-building activity. They allow people to form deeper connections by making themselves vulnerable and relying on others. Trust is a big part of building healthy relationships, and doing a trust fall activity with your children can help. As long as you can set up a safe environment, divide the children into pairs and have them take turns doing the trust fall. This will help them build confidence and trust in each other. Consider joining in the activity as well. While they won’t be able to catch you, catching them will help strengthen your relationship.

Turn and talk

Turn and talk is an activity that allows children to flex their communication skills and have discussions with their peers. Typically used in an academic setting, you can tailor the game to non-academic topics for early childhood education. Tell your children to discuss their favorite color or movie. During this activity, remind them of the SLANT strategy for effective listening and responding. 

Greeting gestures

Welcoming a child by name is a great way to strengthen your relationship with them. As they enter the classroom, you can go one step further by incorporating greeting gestures. On a board near the door, illustrate welcome gestures your children might like to engage in when they walk into the classroom. You might add a thumbs-up, a high-five, a handshake, or a hug. In the mornings, have them tap the gesture on the board that they’d like to do. By allowing children the autonomy to control how you greet them, you’re reinforcing the idea of setting boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships.

Just like me

You might agree that it’s hard to form a positive, healthy relationship with someone you don’t know. The “Just Like Me” activity is a way to learn more about your children and vice versa. Prepare a list of statements about yourself. For example, you might write about your life dynamics, interests, or experiences:

  • I have a brother. I don’t have any sisters.
  • I like going to the movies.
  • I’ve been to Disney World.

Sit in a circle with your children and read each statement. For everyone to whom the statement applies, have them stand up and say, “Just like me!” After each statement, you can choose to have the children elaborate or prompt them to sit down before you read another statement. You can continue the activity by going around the circle and allowing each child to make a statement.

Bank filler

It’s time to fill those emotional banks. This bank filler activity is a great opportunity to help your children build healthy, positive relationships with their peers. In your classroom, have your children stand up one at a time. Tell the rest of the children that you’re going to fill their bank with kind, positive statements. Feel free to get the ball rolling for each child with a compliment. As a bonus, get a piggy bank and a bag full of pennies. Each time a child fills their peer’s emotional bank with some positivity, drop a coin in the piggy bank.

Emotional check-in

To build positive relationships with your children, it’s important for them to know that you’re reliable and there for them when they need you. Try incorporating an emotional check-in board into your daily classroom activities. 

Using a board, display different statements that children might use to express themselves. You can use: “I’m feeling great,” “I’m feeling okay,” “I’m having a bad day,” and “I want to talk.” Give each child a popsicle stick with their name on it. When they enter in the morning, have them put their popsicle stick next to one of the statements on the board. Depending on the emotion, take some time during the day to acknowledge or address their selection. This can range from “I’m glad you’re feeling great today” to spending some one-on-one time to discover why a child is struggling.

What do you need from me?

In a mutual relationship, you want the other person to be reliable, and you want to be comfortable with them. Children also look for these qualities in their relationships with their teachers, family, and peers. The “What Do You Need From Me” activity is a great opportunity to prove your reliability to your children.

For this activity, give your children a sticky note with their names on it. Tell them to write or draw something they need or would like from you. For example, maybe they want more classroom books about nature or help counting to 10. This activity can help your children become more comfortable with asking for what they need, thus strengthening the interpersonal relationships they can develop.

There are many opportunities to incorporate relationship-building activities into your early childhood education curriculum. With a tool like brightwheel’s daily activity report feature, you can easily keep track as you record classroom activities, share live updates with parents, and send daily reports on their child’s day.

The ripple effect

Building positive relationships during early childhood has a ripple effect. It acts as the groundwork for children to build the social-emotional skills used for communicating and interacting with peers, family, and educators. It supports cooperation and motivation. By encouraging positive interactions and guiding children to model healthy relationships through respect and effective communication, you can pass on the tools and skills they’ll use for building positive relationships now and in the future.