Inside: A list of social activities where your child can potentially meet new people with similar interests and perhaps begin a friendship.
“Mom, I don’t have any friends.”
These six words break a mother’s heart every time. You have a myriad of emotions - devastation, anger, frustration, sadness and confusion. The connections you thought would happen at school aren’t happening. Even when you go to the playground, it’s not working there either. Where can you go and how can you help your child make more connections with others?
Making friends can be tricky and doesn’t come so easily to all kids, especially those who might be shy or anxious or quirky. Sometimes you need to be more deliberate in providing opportunities where friendships can start.
One of my favorite strategies to use to help children connect with others is providing opportunities for shared experiences. The trick is finding an experience that will be enjoyable and interesting to them.
First, think about your own child’s interests. What do your kids love to do when they have free time? What do they love to learn about? What have they always wanted to try? Use that as a starting point.
Here are some ideas of places for your children to meet others, have a shared experience and potentially begin a friendship.
Your local Library
This is a great place to find book clubs or gatherings of kids who have the same interests. They will often have book clubs, Minecraft Club, Anime clubs or other special interest activities. Take a peek at what your local library has to offer and see if your child would be a good fit.
Little local museums or centers that are great places to meet others with similar interests. Both of my children are really interested in wildlife and animals, so I’m always on the lookout for those types of museums in particular. On the South Shore in Massachusetts, we frequent the New England Wildlife Center and the South Shore Natural Science Center.
When we moved to California, I looked for a similar type of museum and found a camp at the Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum. Not only did they get a chance to care for the animals, but they also got a chance to meet other kids since we were new to town.
Perhaps going into the bigger children’s museums feels overwhelming for your child. There are lots of smaller, local museums that may be more your speed. We love the Children’s Museum in Easton, MA. There’s also a Children’s Museum in Paso Robles, California. Fun fact - both of these Museums are in old firehouses. My children also recently enjoyed the Children’s Museum of Santa Rosa. Lots of pretend play, indoor and outdoor space, and an art area.
Social Skills Groups
If children struggle with social skills, a great way to help them is to enroll them in a group that specifically works on these skills. A lot of times, these groups provide teachable moments where your child can hone their social cues and interactions. I used to teach these types of groups and loved it! There are more and more of these types of businesses around.
One place I recently discovered is in Needham, MA and it’s run by Alison Ratner Mayer. She’s got great social skills groups, and other ways for kids to connect, like art, music, drama & improv. I’m working on making a resource list of Social Skills Groups, so please let me know of any that you know!
Local YMCA’s offer interesting programs. Some will offer a Youth night, with pizza and games. They tend to have different class opportunities for kids - take a peek at the program catalog for your nearest YMCA to get ideas of potential programs for your child
Taking karate is a great way to work on self-regulation and control. It’s also another place you could potentially find a friend.
Science Museums have really cool activities, like design challenges, or a hands on lab. I have fond memories of visiting the Science Museum in Boston, and there are a variety of exhibits to pick from. They still have the space shuttle I used to climb in when I was in grade school!!
Summer is a great time to try and meet new people. You can try some different types of camps to see what may work best for your family’s schedule and your child.
One of my favorite camps is Timbernook. This camp is all about outdoor play and reconnecting with nature. They have year round programming and there are camps all over the US and the world.
Another great camp I recently discovered was Fiddleheads Camp. My children and I were exploring new playgrounds, and we happen to run into this camp on the last day of their summer session. Their mission is to help kids connect and make friends in nature. Even though my kids were not part of the group, they joined right in and were welcomed with open arms. It was fantastic to see the staff in action with the kids.
Check out social media for people who aggregate local activities and follow them to get ideas. One I love on the South Shore of Massachusetts is 365 things to do in the South Shore. They post great ideas for different activities daily. There are also local magazines and papers that have information about different opportunities. Look for your local parent papers - they should have a lot of local activities, with times, dates and costs.
Here’s a bigger list of social activities to get you thinking about what your child would enjoy:
- Pottery Class
- Horseback Riding
- Sewing Class
- Gardening Class
- Local Aquariums
- Book Clubs
- 4-H Club
- Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts
- Girls on the Run clubs
- Swimming Class
It never hurts to try something out. You can stay to keep an eye on how things are going and if things are not going well, you can always leave. But give it a try. You never know what your child may like!
What is an activity your child has tried? How did it go?