Being in elementary school is not easy. In hindsight, it’s easy to downplay the social anxieties, but making friends can be difficult even for the most outgoing kids. And of course, it’s also the age where misunderstanding and hurt feelings begin to occur–while it may seem silly to be upset over a Hello Kitty lunch box, it’s a real struggle for a 6-year-old.
This is precisely why the Willowgrove School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada came up with the “Buddy Bench.” The green bench on the playground is intended for any kid to sit on during recess when he or she needs a friend to talk or play with. Clearly, every school needs one of these. Some of the students spoke to CBC News about why they love the new bench:
“If you can’t find your best friends, and you don’t know where to go play, you sit on the buddy bench, and somebody will come and find you.”
“You can find friends easily when you’re lonely and you don’t have anyone to play with at recess.”
“Since we installed them, before I seen [sic] people walking around by themselves and since we got these I seen a lot more people with friends to play with.”
The way it works, once a kid sits down, other kids will take note pretty quickly. 7-year-old Matthew Henkelman said it only took “a minute” before someone came over and invited him to play when he used the bench.
Of course, kids don’t necessarily leave each other out on purpose–a lot of children are shy and just don’t know how to initiate a conversation. So instead, kids often just get lost in the shuffle.
Unlike adults, children also don’t necessarily have the verbal skills to communicate how they feel. That’s why this bench is such an incredible idea, because it enables them to reach out in a way they understand–and it also prompts the students to better understand how their behavior affects others.
No one wants their child–or any child–to feel left out. While parents can’t control every social interaction, any little technique that can help is always welcome. Hopefully, other schools will find inspiration in this story, and find ways that work for their students.