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What to do when kids say “no one will play with me”

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

“No one will play with me.” When a child says this, you may not know what to do or say. The best place to start is to simply listen.

Play is as important to young kids as things like money and love are to adults. So when kids say “no one will play with me,” it probably feels like a really big deal to them. Try not to downplay it by saying something like “everything will be fine tomorrow.”

Use open-ended questions to learn more:

  • What made you feel like this today?

  • Who didn’t want to play with you?

  • Were there some kids you wanted to play with, but you didn’t get a chance?

Some kids may just have had a bad day and will feel better after a good night’s sleep. Others may feel like misfits or struggle in social situations. And in some cases, saying “no one will play with me” might be a sign of bullying or exclusion.

Once you understand what’s happening, you can come up with a plan.

Dive deeper

Keeping an eye on negative self-talk

It’s not unusual for young kids to say things like “no one wants to play with me.” Try not to jump to conclusions. If it’s isolated — like once a month — listening may be enough. The issue may be how kids interpret things.

For example, when kids get out to recess 10 minutes late, basketball teams are already picked, and they have to sit out. A child may say no one wanted to play, but it was really because of timing.

If you hear this kind of negative self-talk often, though, find out what to watch out for .

Signs of bullying and social problems

If a child is upset for several days, or repeats the same complaint over and over, look deeper.

Playing with others doesn’t come naturally to all kids. Some need to learn how to ask others to play or how to start conversations .

It’s possible a child is being bullied, too, or that other kids are saying mean things. Learn about signs of bullying in grade school .

Next steps

When kids say “no one will play with me,” try to avoid rushing in and “fixing” things. You don’t want to force an awkward playdate or encounter with another child.

Instead, work together to find solutions. Try watching TV to build social skills or working with kids on conversation skills .

Schools are also a great resource for starting friendships. They often have strategies to help kids socialize and connect. Learn ways teachers can help kids make friends

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom