children playing in a group setting

Whether it's starting school for the first time, joining T-ball or attending a parent-child music class together, it can be challenging for young children to learn how to interact in a group setting. That can be stressful (even for mamas!), but it's actually part of the value of enrolling your child in a class. They will learn not only about soccer or gymnastics, but about how to wait for a turn, how to make friends and how to control their impulses.

While we know these social interactions and even stumbles are important, we still want our children to have the best experience possible. No one wants their child to be the one always getting in trouble or fighting with other kids.


Here are a few methods to help your child succeed in group settings:

1. Communicate expectations

If it's your child's first foray into a group setting, tell them the expectations ahead of time. For a sports team, this might mean listening to the coach and keeping hands off the other kids. For a music lesson or story time, it might mean sitting down during the class.

Make sure to take a few minutes to reflect on whether the expectations are reasonable for your child too. Some 2- or 3-year-olds are simply not read for many group settings.

2. Give one-word reminders

If your child is struggling with a certain issue, like remembering to raise their hand to talk, think of a one-word reminder or gesture. Sometimes simply making eye contact and raising your own hand can be powerful. Use the reminder word as your child goes into class, or even send a little note in their pocket with the word and a little doodle.

3. Practice

Practice whatever challenge your child is working on at home. If they're struggling with coming when the teacher calls, take it to the backyard and practice running around, and then calling your child's name. Ask them to stop and look at you when you do this, and then give a silly instruction. Practicing following the rules can be a fun way to connect to your child.

4. Run around first.

If your child is going to school or a different class where they will be expected to sit for a while, help them release energy beforehand. Encourage them to run around the backyard or a nearby park for 20 minutes before you go. Exerting this abundant energy can help a child be successful when it's time so sit still.

5. Ask them to help you

This is one of my favorite tips I learned as a teacher and I use it with my own child regularly. If your child is struggling to follow a rule, ask them to help you remember. For example, if my son is struggling to walk (not run!) in music class, I say "I need your help. Will you please help me remember to walk today? If you see me running in music class say, 'Stop mama!"

It's fun and whimsical and makes your child feel like you're in this together.

6. Leave if necessary

Obviously you can't pull your child out of school, but if you're at an extracurricular class together and things are rapidly deteriorating, don't be afraid to call it a day. This isn't to punish your child, but to protect them.

If they're having an off day and simply can't handle a group setting at the moment, taking them home will protect them from feeling bad about themselves, from feeling the judging eyes of others on them, and from feeling your own disappointment in their behavior. Children can sense these things.

7. Talk to the coach or teacher

It can be hard to know if your child's behavior is within the range of normal. If you're unsure, talk to your child's coach or teacher. Ask if your child's behavior is normal, and if it's acceptable or causing problems for the class.

8. Check in

After they've attended a few times, check in with your child on how they think a group class is going. Do they like it? Is any part of it hard? Do they need help with anything? What's their favorite part? Encourage your child to judge their own behavior and struggles.

9. Talk about issues when you're both calm

Talk to your child about any behavioral issues you're seeing, but wait until you are calm. If you're feeling really angry or frustrated that your child was terrorizing art class today, it's not a good time for a productive discussion. When you're both calm, talk to your child about what you're seeing and ask for their input in coming up with a solution.

10. Notice good behavior

The last thing we want is to give our children the impression that they aren't good or that they're a problem child. Children internalize these impressions and tend to live up to the expectations. Make sure to notice your child's good behavior in a group setting, especially if they're struggling. Saying phrases like, "I like how you raised your hand to talk today" or "I noticed you being so respectful to your coach today" can go a long way towards boosting your child's confidence.

11. Empathize

Let your child know that you recognize being in a group setting can be a challenge. Say something like, "Remembering to raise your hand can be so hard" or "I know it's so frustrating when you really want a turn and you have to wait". You can even share an anecdote about a rule you've had trouble following to show your child you understand and that their struggles are normal.

12. Observe the other kids

We're naturally hyper focused on our own kids, which can make it seem like they're the only ones struggling to behave in a group. Next time you're with your child in a group setting, take a few minutes to watch the other children. Odds are, yours is not the only one struggling. Seeing this can help you keep perspective and understand reasonable expectations for a child of a given age.

It takes time for most children to learn how to be in a group. This is where they learn how to be respectful toward an authority figure, how to recognize and adhere to social rules and how to make friends. They have to do the hard work of figuring out these life lessons themselves, but using these strategies can help set them up for the best experience possible.

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    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

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    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

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    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

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    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

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    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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    Water play set

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    Croquet set

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    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

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    Wooden bulldozer toy

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    Pull-along hippo

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    Baby forest fox ride-on

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    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

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    Meadow ring toss game

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    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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    Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

    Chrissy Teigen (and any parent mourning their baby) gets to grieve however they want to. And for Teigen, a person who lives life out loud on the Internet, sharing her story was part of mourning, and she just shared more of it.

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    "I cannot express how little I care that you hate the photos. How little I care that it's something you wouldn't have done. I lived it, I chose to do it, and more than anything, these photos aren't for anyone but the people who have lived this or are curious enough to wonder what something like this is like. These photos are only for the people who need them. The thoughts of others do not matter to me."

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