We’ve been immersed in the playgroup circuit for a year now. If you’re unfamiliar with the format, picture rooms full of activities and toys and loads of toddlers going around doing their own thing. That’s the thing: despite their numbers, all of the play is very much done individually as interacting with others doesn’t really kick in until around three years of age.
It’s a little frustrating as you’re willing your child to become friends with the others we see every week, however in the spring I had a preview as to what was to come. Chatterbox Tilly had found a favourite with a slightly older girl who liked Tilly’s ability to converse. The other girl started to refer to Tilly as her ‘friend’; something that was beyond Tilly as a concept at the time, but heartwarming none-the-less. Alas, it was not to last as school holidays came along and the girl never returned to playgroup.
Fast forward a few months though and now Tilly has passed the two-and-half year old milestone herself and we’re now seeing early interest in making friends.
In recent weeks Tilly has taken to shadowing other children at the playgroup, typically slightly older girls. Little ones do often seem to be attracted by the confident play of older children and Tilly is no exception. This interest has resulted in a range of reactions, commonly some degree or confusion or curiosity by the appearance of this small girl, although on occasion it’s been welcomed.
This week Tilly’s search for friendship reached a new peak with a three-year-old girl she encountered at the playground. Having deposed a boy from the fire engine moments earlier, Tilly immediately took a shine to the girl who took his place, adorned as she was with a pink princess crown – a good ice breaker. Tilly can chat confidently if rather eccentrically about what she observes but the older girl seemed fine with this and they were soon running around the playground as firm friends with another parent assuming they were cousins.
Best of all was when Tilly paused for a snack and her friend decided to do the same, leading to them swapping items in their lunch boxes – it was all ridiculously cute. I eventually convinced Tilly to find out the girl’s name, which she did in her typical wacky style “I am Tilly – it’s my best name!” Nevertheless the girl worked out what Tilly meant, names were exchanged and they played for a good while longer before home time was declared.
A small encounter perhaps but it felt like a significant leap forward in how Tilly interacts with other children. The very next day she declared she wanted to return to the playground to make another new friend. Although still early days it seems to bode well that Tilly, who has no shortage of grumpy moments with other children, can actually be incredibly sociable when she chooses. We may never see the playground girl again but it’ll be fascinating to see who becomes Tilly’s first real friends in the months ahead.