July 30th is the United Nation’s International Friendship Day. Officially proclaimed in 2011, it is aimed at promoting friendships between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals to “inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities”. It is also intended to support the goals and objectives of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010)..
Originally established by the greeting card industry early last century, it was quickly picked up around the world as countries adopted their own friendship days. In 1998, the United Nations announced, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ as their world Ambassador of Friendship, thanking him for “his consistent message of companionship, loyalty and friendship.”
UN Member States are invited to “observe this day in an appropriate manner”; celebrating our treasured friends by reminding them of how much we appreciate them and thanking them with thoughtful gifts; as well as reaching out across the miles to make new ones.
Friends are fun; friends help get us through life’s ups and downs, and friendships can start very young and last a lifetime. We all remember a friend we made in nursery school; when we realised for the first time that there were other people who liked the same things as we did. So, what better way to get involved in International Friendship Day than by taking part in some friendship activities?
But we thought; “why should friendship promotion be limited to just one day? Why not challenge yourself to a whole month of friendship activities, and see how many new friends you can make before the end of July?”
So, we’ve put together a list of simple, easy and cheap things you can do to celebrate friendships, both new and old, taking you from July 1st to International Friendship Day itself. How many will you get though in your own setting?
- Smile at people; it costs nothing to be nice.
- Write a letter to an old friend.
- Write a letter to new friends in a different country. You could connect with a nursery in a different part of the world. Contact the nursery manager and see if they would like to become pen pals. You can then exchange cards and letters securely from one nursery to another.
- Sponsor a child – see the Parenta Trust sponsorship programme.
- Organise a ‘friendship tea’. Invite residents from a local care home into your setting for the afternoon and provide them with tea, giving you both the opportunity to benefit from intergenerational activities.
- Make some friendship bracelets. You can use pipe cleaners, string, different coloured pieces of wool or cut up some straws to use as beads. Tie or twist the tops together, then either braid, plait or weave the strands from the top to the bottom. Tie around your friend’s wrist with love.
- Make some paper flowers for your friends.
- Pick up the phone and say ‘hello’.
- Give out some friendly hugs.
- Make an international friendship map: find out where people have friends all over the world and add them to a world map.
- Bake a friendship cake and give a piece to a friend.
- Watch a film about friendship – “Winnie The Pooh” (2011) is a great start with a friendly moral.
- Get children to bring in pictures of their friends who are not in your nursery, and ask them to talk about them.
- Ask for a dedication for your friend on local radio.
- Send your friend a card telling them how much you value their friendship.
- Start a diary/scrapbook about things you’ve done with your friends.
- Organise a sleepover.
- Decorate a biscuit for your friend.
- Make an appreciation board. Write the names of each person in the setting on a piece of paper or a sticky note. Give each person one of the notes ensuring it’s not their own name. Ask everyone to write one or two things that they appreciate about the named person and stick them up. You may have to get your staff to help with writing, but the sentiments should come from the children.
- Learn some friendship songs: there are some wonderful examples with music and lyrics here.
- Learn how other countries celebrate friendships, for example, in Paraguay, they hold a Friendship Day festival or parade, complete with floats, live entertainment and colourfully-costumed dancers.
- Run a session on the United Nations and how it promotes friendship and peace around the world.
- Encourage friendship by dancing. Teach the children some easy folk dances like the farandole – a medieval line dance in which the participants hold hands and form a chain. A ‘leader’ leads the chain of dancers in different directions around the floor. You can see an example of a community farandole here. Join up the ends to form a circle at any time, skipping in and out, then drop one link in the chain to let someone else lead.
- Make a friendship board about what makes a good friend. You can tie into anti-bullying issues with this too.
- Expand your children’s vocabulary by learning some different words for ‘friend’ such as playmate, comrade, buddy, pal, mate etc.
- Learn the word for ‘friend’ in different languages: e.g. amigo, freund, ami and many others. See here for a list.
- Draw a candle in honour of a close or distant friend and write their name on it.
- Apologise to someone if you need to.
- Get the children to draw either their friends, or some of their favourite characters with their friends; like. Postman Pat and his cat, or George and his dinosaur.
- Hooray - you made it! Now it’s time to hold a well-deserved International Friendship Day party – and remember to invite all your old and new friends!