26 answers

3.5 Years Old and Peer Play Issues -- How Can School Help?

Moms,
I have a 3 and a half year old daughter who is sweet, funny, and very smart. She speaks in full sentences since the age of 2 in three different languages (we have a multi-lingual home) and has passed every single milestone with flying marks. She is a healthy child, loves being with kids, and loves her teachers and her school.

The rub is, she is a bit 'shy' in large groups, and does not naturally engage in play with other kids unless she has a lot of prompting and encouragement. She is very aware of others, and I feel that this is more about building her confidence and teaching her how to approach kids, how to make friends, and how to interact with them than lack of interest for example.

As a working mom, I don't have time to do as many playdates as I would like. I have a nanny at home to help with the kids while I work, and send her to a pre-school 3 times a week, from 9.00am to 2.00pm. The school calls itself "development focused" (vs. emphasizing academics) and I would like the school to help her develop her social skills, and encourage her to come out of her shell. After all, she is there in most of the critical "teaching moments" involving peer play.

However, the school director seems to be at a loss on how to help. She essentially told me to take my daughter to counseling in order to deal with "her problem". When I ask her what techniques/strategies are the teachers using with my kid, she can't really articulate an answer other than "we are all trying to help her".

Now here's my dilemma: I don't have a stigma in seeking the help of a counselor for my kid, but I would expect more from the school. My daughter is not being disruptive in class, bothering other kids, or showing any sign of being disengaged. She just needs prompting to spontaneously offer up answers she knows in circle time (again, she appears a bit shy in large groups) and needs help cracking the code on how to establish play with other kids. I am really bothered by the director's response and am considering whether to explore other school options (though we really like the environment in ours, which is a shame).

Any thoughts from other moms? Anything you can offer re. tips on how to teach a kid to engage in peer play, build confidence and the role you can expect the school to play in this?

Thank you for your thoughts here! E.

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for all the thoughtful reflections poured here. I appreciate you all taking the time to give me your candid thoughts. I don't have answers at this point, other than starting to explore various avenues simultaneously. I am touring other programs in my area this week to get a sense for what alternative approaches are out there. The biggest issue I have with her school's staff reaction the more I think about it is the fact that they talk to me as if this was the first time they are faced with this issue - and that takes a toll in confidence. I am not sure this means we'll change her school necessarily, but I feel that I need to explore what else is around me. We'll keep on one-on-one playdates whenever feasible (realistically, cutting back on work is not an 'option' for me - and that does not mean my child is 'less important' as some of the moms suggested - so will need to work this out in a reality in which I am still working). I don't think I will take her to counseling at this point, at least until we have exhausted some other routes.
Thanks again! E.

Featured Answers

Shyness certainly does not require counseling, unless there are other underlying issues (sounds like there isn't). In my opinion, as an educator, you need to find a different school. Social skills are one the key things that they do in any good preschool program. If the director doesn't get that, it's a problem.
My daughter is also extremly shy and timid. She has been in school since she was 2. She has made tremendous leaps in this department. Her school teachers social skills, how to be assertive, etc.
While there is nothing WRONG with being shy, it certainly can hold a person back from meeting their poetential or standing up for themselves if bullied or mistreated.

I don't know where you live, but both my girls go the Fountain Valley Montessori and are THRIVING there! I highly recommend it!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi. I too have a 3 1/2 year old. He is very smart and tends to get quiet in large groups. He too goes to a preschool 3 days a week. I have often worried about him being shy. When he is at home, he is bubbly and full of personality but when he gets to school he almost shys away from playing with other kids, with the exception of a couple he is really comfortable with. I have talked to a lot of other moms about this and they say have no fear. Some kids are just more shy than others. When my son is in a small group, say 4-6 kids, he is perfectly fine..especially if there are little ones around. When he's around kids even a year or so older I think he gets really intimidated. I wouldn't worry too much. Some kids may just be the quiet ones in the group, it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with her socially. Before doing any sort of counseling, I would recommend watching her in small groups. I know you said you work, so try having a kid come home from school with her one day and see if she is more social. Unless she is completely unsocial around all kids, I wouldn't be too concerned. I have learned from my son, when he is comfortable he is social. When he is around friends he has known his whole life (however short), he is social. When he is in a small group, he is social. So it just has to be on his terms. I can't push him, like when he's in a large group, even 10 kids because it makes it harder for him. Hope this helps.
B

More Answers

Hello,
If I were you I would be strongly considering moving her to another school as soon as you can. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect that an early childhood development program would make it their goal to nurture children of all personalities and aim to meet individual needs. My daughter is 2.5 and also very shy. She is super expressive at home but recoils into a shell around groups. Her pre-school has been WONDERFUL at giving her special focus to help her 'open up.' The teachers and directors are very loving and do whatever it takes to work with each child and give them special focus to build a community environment. One day early the director let my daughter nap in her office because she was having trouble in the group setting. This focussed approach is doing wonders with my daughter. She still likes to spend time alone but is now playful and open around the others. The other day the teacher was proud to tell me how my daughter started laughing at a situation. Don't settle. Shop around and find a school that meets your child's needs. You shouldn't have to teach your school how to care for your daughter. They should be inspiring you with their methods.

good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

My daughter was/is very shy - and rarely spoke up in class at all until grade 4. So she is shy - who cares? One on one playdates and encounters is the best way to allow her to ease into this when SHE is ready. Maybe you need to cut back on your hours at work so you can give that to her. After all, which is more important?

The more she is pushed, the slower she will progress in this area. I'd look at other school - or better yet - I think 3 1/2 is way too young to be in school anyway. Sounds like she needs good old mom at the park days, and some mommy & me classes with you and other mom's and their kids.

K.

2 moms found this helpful

You will be thinking about your hurt feelings and not what is best for your daughter if you remove her from the pre-school she loves. The director might have been a bit intimidated by you, but she and her staff spend plenty time with your daughter and thus they should be treated as reliable sources of information. Their observations of your daughter in social situations may be worth following-up on. "Help cracking the code" for socially competent intereactions sounds easy but it is not. Look around and see the many adults who are disabled by their lack of social skills at work or otherwise. If I were you, I'd would take my child to a good pediatric licensed psychologist for a psychosocial evaluation. If there is nothing to worry about, the eval will say so and everyone will be able to relax. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

It's her personality, not a "problem!" Honestly, your daughter is still young - start looking for a preschool that is better suited to her personality. While you may like the program, the people running it don't sound so great.

The labels that teachers/schools give kids with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM are ridiculous, and only done for their own convenience, NOT out of concern for the child (most of the time). Easier to make all kids conform than to deal with them as individuals. Very sad.

My daughter has always been on the "shy" side. She's 3 now, and sometimes does okay in group settings, sometimes not. She's only come as far as she has because we honored that aspect of her personality - and while we always gave gentle nudges to help encourage her, we never forced her to do anything.

And how do you "force" a child to play with others anyway? What is a counselor who has never met your child going to say or do that you haven't done already?

1 mom found this helpful

Hi E F First of all I must say I think the directors response to you was uneducated and unprofessional. Being shy at the age of your daughter is completely normal, your daughter in my opinion does not need couseling. Pre school is a preporation for kindergarden. Pre school and kindergarden are the years that children learn social skills. There's a couple things that you can do, and that the school can do, you can to her class one day and observe, and find a child who you feel has some charactorestics as your daughter, talk to the parent and/or the teacher and have them ask this child to befriend your daughter having another child come up to her will give her confidence, and she may start to feel secure enough do that herself.In the class they need to be having good news sharing, activities where the kids pair up together, projects to where more than one or two work together, things of that nature. Hope this helps sorry for all the miss spelled works, 'm a daycare provider and I have had a lot of practice teaching children to be out of themselves, how to play and work together. J. L.

1 mom found this helpful

I have to say it...why so much pressure on your daughter. My daughter is extremely social, expressive, not shy at all and she prefers to play alone or one on one. It's her style. She enjoys school and finds ways to be envovled and engaged at all times.
Your daughter will excell in ways that make her comfortable.

1 mom found this helpful

Shyness certainly does not require counseling, unless there are other underlying issues (sounds like there isn't). In my opinion, as an educator, you need to find a different school. Social skills are one the key things that they do in any good preschool program. If the director doesn't get that, it's a problem.
My daughter is also extremly shy and timid. She has been in school since she was 2. She has made tremendous leaps in this department. Her school teachers social skills, how to be assertive, etc.
While there is nothing WRONG with being shy, it certainly can hold a person back from meeting their poetential or standing up for themselves if bullied or mistreated.

I don't know where you live, but both my girls go the Fountain Valley Montessori and are THRIVING there! I highly recommend it!

1 mom found this helpful

Take her to a different preschool. There are 13 years of primary education to teach her academics. Toddlers need to be nurtured. My guess is there's nothing wrong with your daughter except needing love and encouragement and you don't need a counselor for that.

1 mom found this helpful

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