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Beginning Friendships

September 29, 2021 | Emily Ford Sytsma

The laughter filling our classroom and the games being created during playtime this week are pointing to the blossoming skills in relationship-building. As they connect with each other, students begin to develop a sense of belonging.

Developing friendships at school is an important goal we have for all students. In these early days, younger preschool students are learning to have fun together with the help of an adult. They have common experiences and teachers help them learn the language they need for sharing materials (“May I have a turn?”  “When you are finished, I would like it next.”).

Older preschool children are actively seeking out playmates. They have experience with cooperative play and most prefer to work and play with someone, rather than working and playing alone.

Most preschoolers, even those with siblings and those who have been in social play settings regularly already, have only a few months experience with cooperative play and they are novices, particularly in these times when many of us have limited our social engagements with others.

We work with children closely to help guide them as they navigate social experiences throughout their day with their peers. How do you invite someone to play with you? What can you do when something doesn’t go your way? What can you say if you feel frustrated? How can you let a friend know that you like (or don’t like) something that is happening? We address these and many other situations.

We hope your child is beginning to feel like they have playmates to enjoy at school. Check out our weekly blog posts for stories and pictures capturing these blossoming friendships!

Emily Ford Sytsma

Early Childhood Director

Ms. Sytsma began her career as an educator working in inclusive classrooms in the state of Hawaii but found her roots began to grow here at Mustard Seed School when she came to teach in 1996. She joined the preschool team in 2007, after teaching for many years in the Middle School. She finds delight in the preschool’s approach to teaching and learning, inspired by the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As Early Childhood Director, she seeks to support teachers in their work helping children learn about thinking and creative expression.

Ms. Sytsma’s the mother of a MSS alum and a current student. When not at school, Ms. Sytsma enjoys traveling with her husband and two children. She tends a very simple rooftop garden in Jersey City Heights and on long Saturday mornings, she may be seen taking long walks along the Hudson River and listening to audiobooks or podcasts while organizing her thoughts and getting her heart rate up.

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