While unhealthy peer pressure poses negative consequences to a child’s development, interactions with peers have many positive effects in a child’s early experiences. Childhood friendship, in fact, is vital to healthy development, according to the New York University Child Study Center. Peer interactions and friendships in childhood promote overall well-being and development in specific learning domains.
Peers have the most obvious impact on a child’s social development. By interacting with children their own age, kids learn how to work cooperatively, collaborate with people and relate to others. Peer interactions also foster communication skills, which is necessary for social development. Interactions between peers promote a child’s sense of self by encouraging him to think of himself in relation to others. Experiences with peers also implicitly teach children about appropriate versus unacceptable social behaviors.
Peers impact a child’s cognitive development in many diverse ways. When children learn cooperatively through partner or group activities, they share interests, ideas and perspectives. Children who interact with each other through different learning and recreational activities are also encouraged to develop creative, problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. Encourage children to join different extracurricular activities and clubs to diversify experiences and encounters with friends.
Interactions with peers give children opportunities to bond and experience different emotions, such as acceptance and joy. Peer camaraderie and companionship promote self-esteem and coping skills, which are vital to healthy, overall development as kids grow up. Even playground disputes and tiffs over toys are beneficial to child development, because they teach kids how to manage and express feelings of frustration and anger in different ways.
Friends and peers can have a strong impact on children’s physical development. When young children gather outside to play, the physical activities they engage in promote healthy, fit and strong bodies. Active games of tag, hopscotch, catch, hide-and-go-seek and even unstructured play on playground equipment encourage development of gross motor skills, agility and reflex.