You’ve Got a Friend in Me – Exploring Friendships within HBC

Friendships and relationships within an Early Years setting are vital to children’s learning and development as we all know, if children feel safe, secure, loved and happy in their environment that sets them up to thrive and learn to the best of their ability. 

For us, we often face questions regarding the difficulties of mixed age groups within the setting and how this impacts upon children’s ability to form relationships/friendships. 

In our experience, being a mixed age group settings provides a wealth of benefits for children, their attachments and their ability to form friendships as they grow and develop. 

Despite some significant age gaps within our current cohort of children, their friendships and relationships have blossomed from the outset. 

For many, they started with us at a year old (or younger!) and have essentially grown up together within our environment and so not only do they develop deep and lasting relationships from the outset, but they become more like family than just friends due to the personal nature and home-from-home setting and care we provide. 

As with any relationships and friendships within the Early Years, it is of course not always plain sailing and children will naturally go through a period of transition and explore conflict and conflict resolution as is developmentally expected; whereby sharing, playing collaboratively and even playing alongisde each other can become difficult, but with confident, reasonable and supportive adult role-modelling and support, children will quickly explore these concepts (which are difficult for even the most self-regulated of adults!) persist, play and eventually overcome these difficulties. 

Of course there will always be conflicts during play for children of this age, right up until they leave us for school, but with the foundations of these friendships and relationships in place from the outset for these children, these conflicts are often few and far between, and often resolved independently during play, without the need for adult intervention, an incredibly mature concept for children to navigate independently, but one that is testament to the depth of their relationships. 

In our experience, particularly with our current cohort of children, the relationships and friendships they have developed are some of the strongest we’ve witnessed in both of our careers; the empathy, understanding and compassion our children show each other each day truly is so beautiful to witness and be part of. 

These deep and meaningful relationships have allowed children to develop language, overcome social anxiety, settle into a new environment with ease and our children have supported each other through some difficult transitional periods, that could usually result in children becoming fragile emotionally or reverting into themselves, but through the relationships that have already been established, children are able to support each other through these experiences, without even realising! 

As adults, we often overlook how significant children’s friendships are, when in actual fact, children navigate some incredibly complex and mature events and concepts together, that most adults struggle with on a level. 

So much focus within the education sector is placed on children’s academic achievements, milestones and targets, when the most important thing for children to be is kind, emotionally available, a good friend and empathetic of others. 

For us, these skills are for more complex than any formal learning or teaching we facilitate or plan to ‘teach’ and the benefits from developing these relationships provide children with the most incredible life skills that with the foundations of relationships and friendships developed set in the earliest years, allows our children to grow up to be kind, well-rounded and emotionally intelligent individuals who make long-lasting and meaningful connections into adulthood and so we as adults must never overlook the importance, sheer wonder and beauty of children’s early friendships and relationships within the Early Years. 

These are the things children will remember in their early experience, not the activities we provide or the things we teach, but the way they felt, the friendships, the laughter and the purposeful and meaningful play that came with their earliest friendships.

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