No One Will Play With Me

It is hard when children come home from preschool or daycare forlorn and reporting that they didn’t have a great day with their friends. We imagine that while we work, they’re having a blast in school, running, playing, safe and happy. However, most parents are familiar with the experience of picking up a child from preschool and hearing some variation of “No one would play with me”.

Of course we try to ask what happened, what did the teacher say, why didn’t your good buddy help you out? It’s hard to imagine that our children had a day where not one of their classmates wanted to include them in their play.It sounds so sad! It’s tough to get the whole story out of a preschooler so it’s hard to know where to begin when brainstorming solutions. Before getting into too much stress, consider the way a preschooler’s mind works, and perhaps this is something that doesn’t need a strong reaction at all. Here are a few reasons your child might come home saying no one would play with them:

  • Their best buddy was absent that day. Children who have one close friend at school often find themselves adrift and unmoored when that friend is missing from the school day. It may be that they are so accustomed to playing with that one child that the idea of engaging others was too much, and they opted instead to play alone.
  • They wanted to run the show. Educators see this a lot. Children will approach a dramatic play scenario or a pretend play game that is already in progress and demand to be the Mommy, or the King or whatever the preferred character in charge might be. When they children already engaged say no to that, a child might feel that no one wants to play with them, and in ways, it’s true, but its because the child was being inflexible, not because peers didn’t want to play at all.
  • They wanted to play monster and the other kids didn’t want to. Piggybacking on the previous suggestion, sometimes a child will try to engage peers already playing together by becoming a monster or a dinosaur that wrecks sandcastles or block structures, or chases and roars. This happens a frequently with preschool age children. Some days our children are the dinosaurs, some days they are the upset child whose volcano was kicked in.
  • Maybe, in fact, one or two children did say “You can’t play with us.” In the mind of a preschooler, that means “everyone won’t play with me” The child probably did not actually ask every classmate to play.
  • The child is simply having a lonely day. Four and five year olds just do this sometimes, they become melancholy and mopey. A few extra hugs and a snack will probably fix them up. They will be back to their usually playful self tomorrow.

When to worry:

  • When a child has more days like this than not.
  • When they are reporting other children being physically or verbally aggressive with them
  • If the child is being singled out for appearance, a disability, race, or their body size

In these instances, it’s time to meet with the teacher and preschool director to get to the bottom of things.
Children can easily go from one extreme to the next in a heartbeat, and sometimes they just had a bad day. Let them process their feelings with support from parents and caregivers before interrogating them about their day at school. Sometimes it’s ok to be a little sad.

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