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Early childhood peer group

Definition of a peer group

The term peer group means something like “the group of peers” or “the group of equals”. In the educational field, this term is often used to describe groups of children or young people who come together for specific reasons. There can be very different reasons. Often a peer group arises from the same age, the same interests, hobbies, origin or gender. Institutions such as kindergarten or school are particularly conducive to the development of different peer groups.

The advantage of early peer groups

If you take a closer look at the definition of peer groups, you can see that a peer group can be formed very early on. Today, children come together earlier and earlier outside of the family. They meet up in crawling groups with their peers, then go to children’s gymnastics, to the playground, to kindergarten and elementary school together. Incidentally, over time, peer groups are formed through regular play with the same children.

This game is especially valuable for young children. They learn from the start that the world is not just about them and that there are more children. When they play together in the peer group, they learn to be considerate, to settle conflicts, to share and to assert themselves. The earlier they are allowed to learn these skills in a group with their peers, the more they can later fit into a community. Besides, the learning effect is much greater when they learn in a peer group than when the parents try to teach the child to share, for example.

Learn from each other – right from the start

Children under two years of age are more likely to play side by side and not with each other. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, a peer group is very valuable even under the age of two. Small children can learn a lot from each other here. Over time, the children decide by themselves who they want to play with and who they prefer not to play with. They form their peer group without the help of adults.

Formation of peer groups in early childhood

In fact, it is already important for babies and toddlers to have plenty of contact with children of their own age. Most babies are already very interested in other babies and children in their first year of life. You practice first steps in social behavior like smiling, babbling and touching. In the second year of life, the imitative game is added. This is precisely why children are very important. Babies find it easier to learn from other children than from adults.

To the adult observer, from the outside it may not seem as if babies and toddlers are coming into contact with one another. However, if you take a closer look, you can see the beginning of the first peer group. The first such joint games are, for example, babbling together, imitating movements or dancing together to music. Over time, the children in a peer group develop games together, such as the popular role-playing game.

From around the age of three, the peer group of a toddler expands from just one or two play partners to larger groups. Now more extensive games emerge, which often appear very complex even to the adult observer. In this phase, the peer group is usually not formed according to gender, but rather according to game preferences and age. Shortly before elementary school age, most children begin to split into gender-specific peer groups. From the initial peer group, which was still open to other children, solid friendships now develop. When entering primary school, the peer group will be reshuffled.

How adults can support the formation of a peer group

In order for a child to be able to bond well to a peer group, they first need a good bond with their parents. Because only children who have developed trust in the world can break away from their parents in order to make contact with their peers. If the child is insecure and does not know exactly whether it can rely on its parents, this often has negative effects on social behavior. Even children who grow up very isolated usually have great difficulties connecting to a peer group. That is why parents should, if possible, have as much contact with other children as they can. This can be a toddler group or regular visits to a playground. Meeting friends who have children is one of them. In this way, the child can experience dealing with people of the same age at an early stage.


Sebastian Götz
Sebastian Götzhttps://krippenzeit.de
"Ich lerne für den besten Job der Welt und möchte euch hier auf Krippenzeit daran teilhaben lassen."
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