Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The fickle world of toddler friendships

It's rather sweet when your toddler starts taking an interest in friends and friendship. Suddenly the little people you've been having them play around begin to matter and to get seen in a new light. If my memory serves me right, it was when my son turned three that the concept of friends first made an appearance and as he gets close to his fourth birthday, it has really gained in significance for him.

Early on, when my son was getting to grips with the idea of friendship, he would talk about it in a broad sense so as we were getting ready to go to the park, my son would say, "I hope we see some friends there". Sometimes he would talk to random children in the park who we didn't know and later when recounting our outing to daddy, those children would be referred to as 'friends'.

Many months later, we've entered 'best friend' territory. I've generally noticed that little girls (and from a younger age) are really into 'best friends' but boys are too apparently. BFs can change from day to day, hour to hour even. Usually said person is "my best friend in the whole world".

As a parent, it's both touching and humourous to observe a toddler's foray into friendship. Last week for example, a little girl in my son's nursery class came over to play. These two play together at nursery a fair bit and we've taken them to playgroups where they have played really nicely together too. Before she came over, my son told me, "Mary's* my best friend in the whole world. It's so exciting she's coming to our house".

Well it didn't take long before his poor world was shattered. Mary* was not in good form. She didn't want to play with him, she pushed him, knocked over his drink and it all ended in tears! Needless to say, the play date was not the joy my son had forseen and best friends they were no more.

As adults we have the experience to know that sometimes friends do disappoint us or fail to live up to our expectations. Thankfully the high drama has phased out and we tend not to take things so personally. I think it's safe to say the friendships dramas will be few and far between with a son. Boys seem to just get on with it. Girls on the other hand....!

Watching my son develop a sense of friendship, identifying people he likes to spend time with and wants to invite to his birthday party, I feel a sense of pride that he's grasping a new social side to his being. I also recognise that it's a sign of him growing up and increasing his independence - one of those bittersweet parenting moments.

How does your toddler interact with their little friends? Is there anything you notice in particular about their choice of friendships or behaviour towards their friends?

*name has been changed
photo credit


  1. Good post, though I'm sorry your son's play date didn't quite work out, bless him!

    It is lovely to observe isn't it? From the moment my daughter progressed from parallel play to interactive I've found it fascinating. At the moment we're just in 'friends' territory - no proclamations of BFF yet (hopefully a phrase that will die out before long - though I doubt it :))

    She plainly has favourites though and it's interesting to me to see the role she takes in a friendship - for instance in some she is quite dominant, then in others she's less so, yet still seeming quietly confident. Have to say I'm not at all looking forward to all the drama of friend-fall outs in a few years!!!

    1. Thanks! :-). Yes, it is really lovely to observe. Like your daughter, my son too is more chatty or dominant with some friends and less so with others.


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