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What to Do If Your Child Says “No One Will Play With Me”

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a Glance

  • When your child says “no one will play with me,” it’s important to listen.

  • Try not to downplay or brush off your child’s feelings.

  • Use open-ended questions to find out what’s happening.

“No one will play with me.” Has your child ever said this to you? If so, you may not have known what to do or what to say. Here are some suggestions.

When your child shares feelings with you, start by just listening. 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 that “everything will be fine tomorrow.”

Try to understand more by asking your child open-ended questions:

  • 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?

How you ask questions is just as important as the questions you ask. You want to show you care about your child’s thoughts and feelings. Saying something like “Wow, sounds like you had a rough day” can make your child feel heard.

At the same time, try not to jump to conclusions. It’s not unusual for young kids to say “no one will play with me.” Sometimes, it’s a real problem. Other times, it’s because of how young kids interpret things. It might not be what’s really happening.

Say your child was working on a class project and got out to recess 10 minutes late. When your child got to the field, soccer teams were already picked and your child had to sit out. Your child told you that no one wanted to play. But in that case, it’s because of timing, not friends.

How often your child says it is also important. If it’s isolated—like once a month—listening is usually enough. If your child complains more often, look deeper.

It’s also important not to try to rush in and “fix” things for your child—for example, by inviting another child over. Instead, work with your child to find solutions.

If your child has no one to play with at recess, encourage your child to try a game like four square. With four square, your child just has to get in line. Eventually your child will get to the front of the line and have a chance to play.

You can also reach out to your child’s teacher. Lots of schools have strategies to help kids socialize.

One is a “ lunch bunch,” where a teacher has lunch with a group of kids, some who struggle with making friends and others who are more popular. The group gives your child a chance to have a guided conversation, helped along by a trusted teacher. There are also student clubs around interests like video games, graphic novels, or Legos.

If your child seems upset for several days, you may need to do more. Playing with others doesn’t come naturally to all kids. Your child may need to learn skills to make friends, like knowing how to ask others to play or how to start conversations. Or taking your turn and letting others talk. Your child can learn these skills through role-play or a social skills class.

Sometimes, saying “no one will play with me” can be a sign of something more serious. If other kids are saying mean things or bullying your child, contact the school. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the school counselor if you need help.

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Key Takeaways

  • Help your child figure out ways to meet and play with other kids.

  • Reach out to the school about activities like “lunch bunch.”

  • If your child is upset for a while, try to find out if bullying is involved.

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  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
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  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom