What do you do when your child  would rather play alone than with friends?  We know that at two years old, this is very normal, as kids often parallel play, instead of interacting.  No one thinks anything of it. But when a child is ready for elementary school, parents and teachers seem to worry about independent play more than they did in the previous years.

My child would rather play alone than with friends

When Your Child Doesn’t WAnt to Play with Others

What do you do when your child doesn’t want to play with others?  This was the question asked on our Facebook page this week, when a mom told us that her child  would rather play alone than with friends.  We wanted to help her with our best advice and with these wonderful stories from other parents in your situation.  We we pulled together our favorite resources (from mothers, teachers, etc…) to help you and your child navigate these new waters.

Related: Teaching the Life Skill of How to Be a Good Friend for Kids

Advice for When Kid Doesn’t Play with Friends

1. Remember that Some Kids are Different

Some kids just like to play alone.  That’s just the reality of it.  I have four kids and three of them love to play with friends, while one of our sons  would rather be in his room, crafting something, or out in the woods constructing some sort of fort.   They are just different.   They are all  kind, smart and fun to be around, but they are different and like different things… to each their own.

2. Embrace Your Child’s Strengths

Natalie Brockman has great advice:  “My daughter was exactly like that… she would rather play alone, and even seemed completely content! I labeled her as shy and spent most of her childhood trying to “fix” her.  She is now 28 yrs old. She has not changed. She is a one-friend-at-a-time girl but she is truly loyal to her few friends. I have discovered that she is not shy, but introverted. Read about introversion and see if it fits your story. I love who she is and I have often wondered if I have unintentionally added to her low self confidence because I was always trying to fix her.”

3. Look at the WHY behind the Isolation

“My son is almost eight and has always been the same way and we discovered that his imagination runs so deep that the other kids coud not get to where he was in his imagination.”~ Mary Temple

4. Time Will Tell

”  Don’t even stress about that one bit. She’ll make friends on her own time. My daughter is an only child and was the same way. Then, out of nowhere, she decided to play with someone else at the playground. She still enjoys playing alone, too. It’s not anything to worry over. That’s just who she is.” ~Jessica Lee M.

5. Try One-on-One Vs. Group

Try having one on one play dates with other children that like to do things that your child does.  I would start with just one other child at first and then move to group play dates after he is comfortable with the individual play dates.

6. Engage Kids in Activity vs. Free Play

Try taking your child out of his comfort zone just a bit for play dates (away from the home).  Could you have it at a pottery place or at a gym?  What is something that he likes?   Find that place that would interest him (a museum would work, too) and go there for a play date.  Oftentimes, at home, it is too easy for him to go off to do what he is used to and not play with the friend.

7. Get it Checked Out

Even though it is normal and some kids just play alone, I do suggest checking with a neurologist or your pediatrician to be sure that everything is OK on the medical side of things.  As a play therapist, I work with many children and some of them have social delays, so I see it often.   Therapy can help tremendously.

8. Find Common Ground

If your child isn’t enrolled in a preschool class or in school, this would be a great opportunity for him to find friends with similar interests.   Even a gymnastics or art class would be a welcomed opportunity.  (Maybe even start a club about whatever he is interested in!)

9. Slowly Remove Yourself from the Play

“My daughter is the same way out of pre-k. I’ve found individual play dates have been the best where I need to “work” on something with the other mom so I can’t play.” ~Sue Ferguson

10. Temperament for the win!

My favorite piece of advice came from Juliette Exurpery:  This is about temperament. Temperament is what we were born with. You can mold and shape a child to a certain degree, but you can’t change the way they were born. Take 2 boys on a beach; one is running through the surf, chasing turtles and having a blast splashing in the water…while the other boy is up on the beach with a few little toy cars. He’s laying on his belly, running thr cars through the sand – maybe even building roads. Both boys are having a blast! They were just born with a different temperament.”

My child would rather play alone than with friends

11. Evaluate

You, as the parent, know what is best for your child.  If you are concerned, have an evaluation done (most states offer free evaluations through the Early Intervention Programing).    

12. Quality Time with You

In the meantime, try to spend time with your child and find like-minded kids for him to play with… remembering that he may just be an introvert and that is OK.  

Find more discussions like this on our Facebook Page, where we talk about parenting topics on a daily basis.

More Parenting Advice from Kids Activities Blog

If you have advice for when you 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old won’t play with other kids…or other ages, please add to the comments below!

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