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Question: My child does not play with my friend’s children of the same age. Any play tips to help him become more sociable?

Dr Richard Woolfson's Answer:

The best way to help your child become more sociable is to arrange for as much play experience with others his own age as possible. No matter how much he protests that he doesn’t want such opportunities, arrange them anyway. If possible, supervise the children when they play together – structured play episodes are less threatening to a shy than free-play situations. Before each social opportunity, remind your child to talk to the others, to ask them questions about themselves, and to choose games that involve sharing and interacting.

You can also help by having a good range of toys for them to play with, such as pretend play paramedic figures and toy ambulances, or a large floor puzzle – what matters is to provide lots of games that cannot be played by one person alone. Tell your five-year-old beforehand that you expect him to get involved, and at least to be one of the players in a game. In this structured setting, with your encouragement, your five-year-old’s social skills will increase.