How to Help Shy Children Be More Open and Make Friends

Children with learning disabilities are more likely to be quiet

girls doing arts and crafts project
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Shy children with or without learning disabilities may have more difficulty making friends than their extroverted peers. In fact, shyness can be so much of a problem that children hesitate to participate in school activities. They may refuse to raise their hand in class, give a speech or work as a group leader on a class project. They may even refuse to take part in fun extracurricular activities, including sports, the school play or volunteer projects.

Special needs children in particular may withdraw from others and develop anxiety in social situations because they feel different or worry that others will reject them. Unfortunately, shyness can prevent children from making friends and developing a sense of well-being and happiness. Life doesn't have to be this way for quiet children. Parents and teachers can take steps to coax shy children out of their shells and into friendships with other children. Use these tips to get shy children to open up. 

Awaken the Child's Sense of Curiosity

Fill a small box with games or toys that involve interaction with others, and place it among a small group of children, including the shy child. Tell the kids to take turns drawing items from the box. When they finish, direct them to find the children who drew the same items they did and have them play together for 15 to 20 minutes. Call time and have them place the items back into the box.

Pull out a new box and have them draw again for the opportunity to befriend a new playmate.

Get Shy Children Involved in Crafts

Arrange craft workspaces so that children work in groups of two to four. Place containers of materials needed to make the crafts in the center of the group. This will help shy students learn to tolerate other children in close proximity as they focus on the craft.

As children become comfortable having other students near, they may begin making eye contact, sharing and talking with each other.

Play Outdoor Games to Encourage Interaction

Start with games that require limited contact with others and gradually introduce activities requiring more contact. For example, start with games like Catch the Compliment, dodge ball or kickball. As children become comfortable, add games that require more interaction and closer proximity among participants, such as board games and basketball. 

Manage Your Expectations

Don't expect the above activities to transform a shy child into a social butterfly overnight. Some children are naturally introverted and should be accepted as such. Exposing shy children to icebreakers, however, gives them the opportunity to see that other kids aren't so bad and maybe share some common interests with them. If the ice breakers don't lead to an immediate friendship, don't fear. Take heart in the fact that just by playing with peers, the shy child took a huge first step.

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