In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared that July 30th of every year would be recognized as an International Day of Friendship. The main point is simply to highlight human connectedness and social harmony. And, since friends are such an essential part of growing up, Friendship Day is also a great opportunity to help kids recognize the importance of having good friends and being a good friend, too.
Finding and maintaining healthy friendships requires a certain level of social awareness. We, as parents/educators, are in an excellent position to help our kids develop those skills in age-appropriate ways. Of course, some kids will naturally be better at friendship than others, but there’s always room for improvement. Here are a few ideas to get you started as you think about how you might best honor and celebrate International Friendship Day with the kids in your life.
Because they are experiential, hands-on, and creative, crafts are always a great place to start. It’s even better if you can craft with friends! As you might imagine, there are lots of friendship craft ideas out there, including friendship crowns, friendship bracelets, and friendship trees, to name a few. Our two favorites, which we’ve made frequently with different age groups, are puzzle piece friendship necklaces and good old-fashioned paper doll chains.
I first saw this craft years ago when it was posted by A Girl and a Glue Gun. We’ve made them several times since then. This version makes use of grommets, but you can also simply attach a long piece of yarn to the back of the puzzle piece using glue. (A hot glue gun works really well for this.) We made these using pieces from a 300-count puzzle that I bought at a thrift store for 50 cents.
|First, remove the glossy
coating/image with fine-grit
sandpaper or spray paint both
sides in any desired color. We
used silver spray paint for these.
|Decorate the puzzle piece,
on one or both sides, using
Sharpie markers, glitter, or any
other decorating items.
|Pierce a hole somewhere on the
piece, either before or after
decorating, using eyelet pliers.
You might need to punch the hole
twice as puzzle pieces can be a
bit thick. Then, insert the grommet.
Run a length of yarn, or an inexpensive chain, through the grommet to create a necklace.
Paper Doll Chain
This next craft is neither original nor modern, and, yet, kids always have a great time making them. I think that’s because it’s super-easy to create something that is totally unique. Every doll is different every time. It also makes use of small amounts of readily-available supplies, so it’s an easy craft for educators and caregivers to facilitate.
Instructions for paper doll chains can be found in various places. I think the directions and templates found at Aunt Annie’s Crafts are among the best. The basic idea is to fold a strip of paper back and forth, in an accordion fold. Then, you draw an outline for ½ a person along the crease, making sure the arms extend all the way out to the edge.
|For this version, we started with a regular
8½” x 11” sheet of paper which we then
cut in half lengthwise to create two strips
measuring 4¼” x 11”. After folding one
of the strips to create eight panels, we
drew our template image and cut along
the blue lines ONLY. (Note: the paper
can be rather thick at this point, so kids
might need help with this part.) This
yields four dolls with their hands connected.
We then used a variety of supplies — including markers/crayons, newspaper, yarn, fabric scraps, scissors, and glue — to decorate the dolls.
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Books are another easy way to explore a topic with kids. There are lots of friendship books out there, partly because there are so many different aspects of friendship that are important – making new friends, patching up a friendship after a disagreement, dealing with a friend who is sick, coping with a friend moving away, etc. This list from Books and Giggles was updated in 2020 and provides some titles to look for at your local library.
I am particularly interested in books that promote multicultural friendships. I guess I’m not the only one because there are a few books that were either published in the last year, or are being released soon, that are directly related to that topic! Here are three new titles that might be worth exploring.
- All Different and Beautiful: A Children’s Book about Diversity, Kindness, and Friendships by Belle Belrose and Winna CL (8BC Publishing, 2020)
- A Friend Like YouA Friend Like You by Frank Murphy, Charnaie Gordon and Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press, 2021)
- Ping Meets Pang: A story of otherness, differences, and friendship by Mary Jane Begin (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2021)
Read Brightly also created this list of 11 friendship-related books for teens/young adults. Building and maintaining friendships is a life-long process, and the skill set changes as kids mature. So, it’s important to acknowledge that tweens and teens need guidance in exploring friendships, too. If you think back to your own tween/teen years, you will surely find interesting examples. And even though they don’t seem like it, tweens/teens really do love hearing stories from “when you were their age.” Most importantly, you now have the wisdom of hindsight to assist you!
Activities that promote bonding or teamwork can also be used to honor International Friendship Day. Here are a couple of examples that can easily be adapted for different ages.
This game has been around for a long time in one form or another. It definitely highlights similarities and differences, but it’s also a great way for kids (and adults) to become better acquainted with one another. That, in and of itself, helps build friendships.
To play this game, simply have everyone in the group form a circle. The first person begins by sharing something about themselves. It can be anything – a favorite ice cream flavor, an animal that seems scary, a special hobby, etc. All the other kids in the circle who can relate to the statement raise their hands and yell “Me, Too!” There are always a few surprises when players realize they really do (or don’t) have things in common with one another.
It can help to have a few agreed-upon ground rules. For example, we often incorporate a rule whereby each person yells, “Me, Too!” only once. We also try to keep stories to a minimum as they can really get out of hand, especially if you’re doing this activity in a classroom.
It’s also nice to have a few minutes of processing time at the end. You can ask the group about their feelings when someone said something they agreed with, their feelings when someone said something they disagreed with, unanticipated revelations, or their reaction to being the only one who could (or couldn’t) relate.
Lower the Roll
I have also seen various versions of this game over the years. Our version, which is incredibly easy and inexpensive, makes use of a roll of tape – like duct tape, masking tape, or blue painter’s tape. It works well with 3-6 players.
To begin, have everyone stand in a circle, with one arm reaching toward the center. Then, have everyone extend their index fingers, so they are nearly touching. Place the roll of tape on their extended fingers, so each person is helping to hold it.
Now, ask the group to work together to lower the roll of tape to the ground. Each player’s index finger should remain touching the roll of tape at all times. To make the activity easier, let the players use two fingers. To make the activity harder, ask the players to do something more complicated, like move, as a group, backwards or forwards.
If you’re not up for making a big deal out of Friendship Day, consider just talking to your kids about friendship. My kids are mostly grown now, but I used to talk to them a lot when we were in the car driving from one activity to another. Sometimes when I inquired about their friends, I received unexpected answers. So, here are few International Friendship Day questions you can ask your kids. On the plus side, asking questions doesn’t require a trip to the library or the craft supply store!
- Who are your top 3 friends right now? Have you ever had a friend who then became a non-friend and then became a friend again? What happened to cause the rift and how do you repair the friendship?
- What are the 3 most important traits you look for in a friend? Do you think you exhibit those traits to your friends?
- What is the best way to make a new friend? Have you ever used that approach to make a new friend? Has anyone new ever tried to be your friend? Were you open to them or did you make them feel unwelcome somehow?
- What is the most hurtful thing a friend ever did to you? Why was it so hurtful? Do you think you have ever hurt a friend? What did you do? Why did you do it? Did you ever apologize?
- What do you think is the best thing about having friends? What are the 3 most fun things you’ve done with your friends?
The truth is that any day can be “friendship day.” But, it can be helpful to have designated times to draw attention to the things that we value – as a family, as a community, as a society, and as a culture. That’s what many United Nations days are about. (A full list can be found here.)
Friendship Day is just a great way to appreciate our friends, to honor meaningful relationships that often get overlooked, and to promote peace – all at the same time. It also offers an easy opportunity to help our kids build their friendship-related skills. What are some of your ideas for celebrating this year’s International Day of Friendship with kids?
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