Making Friends (at the Playground) Part 2

I wrote about Malcolm’s strategy at the playground more than a month ago. It worked for a while, he made friends and  his friends played with him at the playground. But recently, after the 2 weeks break from school, things seem to revert back to where it begins.

The other day, he got so upset when I picked him up for lunch. He told me, while choking back tears that he didn’t want to go back school because no one plays with him at the playground.

He tried walking around groups of children, hoping that they will invite him to join in. He was afraid to approach or request to join in, firstly he is still not comfortable with the language and secondly, he was afraid of being pushed by kids who didn’t welcome him. We knew he tried  his best.

His problem is specifically at the playground, he can tell us he has no problem in the classroom. He enjoys singing and he enjoys going to the gym but not having anyone to play with at the playground is enough to ruin his day. It is like a devil’s place for him and it pains us to see that he is having such a hard time on this foreign land.

Nov 353

After much talking, listening and brainstorming,  he insisted that he does not want to play with the boys who play fighting, we came up with a few solutions for him to handle the playground situation

1. Approach kids whom were nice to him in the classroom.

2. Approach kids who are alone or playing in small group of 2, bigger groups are usually more difficult to get in.

3. Learn to fold paper planes so that he can throw them at the playground and hopefully attract kids to join in.

If all fail, he can take out his 2 little pin planes we put in his pocket and play with them.

We are having our fingers crossed and hoping that things will get better.



  1. Ann says:

    Oh, must be tough on poor Malcolm.

    But I must say you are handling it pretty well too.

    I have seen that it take longer for foreigners to warm up to Asians compared to Asians warming up to foreigners.

    Hope Malcolm is able to accept their “weakness” in that they find it hard to open up. And that he has to be strong in time of other’s weakneses…and continue to approach the nicer kids to play.

    Hope all works out soon!

  2. Rachel says:

    Language barriers can be the most unforgiving when it comes to social situations for kids and adults alike.

    Find out more about the play context in the playground: are there climbing structures, is there a sand pit, what other materials are in the sand pit, etc. Usually outdoor play for 4 years old involve alot of pretend play scenarios, so understanding the equipment, and the possible pretend play that can happen around the playground will make the difference.

    Mummy can continue to help Mal expand his French vocab by learning the key words along with him. Learn with him the words to use to see if he can contribute the play; e.g., what are you making/ playing? Can I play? I can do X Continue to encourage him to ask if he can join in play. It will definitely help if he approach the kids playing alone or friendlier ones.

    I realise that children in Spore preschools who do not ask if they can play, usually will get neglected. Few children at his age are proactive or considerate enough to ask another child to play. Esp when the other child is different from them. So learning how to ask is one important way to join in the play together.

    The other way is to speak with the teachers. Committed teachers will help children esp those with different cultural bckgrounds to connect by pairing them up during lesson time, with block building, cars/trucks, drawing painting during lesson time. From there maybe he can find friends with the same interest, and possibly can become natural playmates during outdoor time.

    Just my two cents worth. French preschools maybe very different in comparison with Spore’s.

    Rachel : Hey rachel! thank you so much for taking the time to type out all these tips!
    We had taught him how to ask in French but I guess he is not comfortable using the language, even the kids replied he might not be able to understand what they are saying. Language is indeed a problem and I think it will take time for him to grasp the language.
    Have yet to talk to the teacher, it will probably be the last resort. He has no problem during class activity when the teacher is around. But when it comes to free play at the playground, I guess not all the kids are nice and I think this happens everywhere. We are hoping that he will find the best way to gain acceptance.
    Meanwhile, hopefully knowing that Mummy and Daddy are always there for him will help to make this transition easier.

  3. Angeline says:

    girl, my heart went out to little Mal when he choked back his tears… but I really think its a ‘skin colour’ problem, on top of the language problem….

    are there any other Asian kids in the school? if yes, maybe can start from them, if no (which I believe so) then, I think it will need more than just time….

    to see Mal go through the effort (in your previous post which I remembered very clearly) just to have kids play with him just saddens me… cos’ kids are natural-friendly-species…. at this age, they ‘should click’ effortlessly and start playing together….

    if I’m you, I’ll really be pretty worried…

    Rachel : Hi Angeline, thanks. there are 2 japanese in his class but they don’t speak english, the only way they can communicate is french. I like to think that kids this young is not capable of discrimination and I seriously think is the language problem. Quite a number of my husband’s international colleagues faced the same problem when their kids first went to school. Will see how it goes, tempted to call quit but yet to give up. thanks again.

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