How to make friends in the school playground (a guide for parents)

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As you mop up your tears of pride at seeing your little darlings toddle off to big school in their oversized uniform and enormous shoes, just remember you’re going to be in this playground, at the crack, every morning for the next six years so you’d better make some playground buds pretty sharpish, before you become the loser parent in the corner who dribbles crab cakes down her Boden blouse. You don’t have to like these people of course. Their only purpose is to share gossip with you about other mums you don’t like.

As you’ll have discovered, the playground is divided up into those people who have the confidence to chat to others about their little darling’s latest IQ grading, and those who stand looking around them nervously, or feigning an intense fascination with their child’s nose-picking antics. The playground is the sorting hat for people who are sociable and people who like The Archers. So, take my advice – if, in mid conversation, you find yourself talking to the latter, stop talking immediately, introduce that person to another Archers fan and go find someone more interesting, or simply move to the other side of the playground swiftly, as though going to do something terribly important.

The easiest way to make friends is to go up to people and introduce yourself as [your child’s name]’s mum. They won’t remember your name anyway so don’t bother telling them.

Eye contact is vital when trying to make playground friends. No one is going to chat to you for long if you stand there playing Crossy Road on your IPhone while they’re talking. On the other hand, don’t stare too intently, they might think you want to stab them.

Start the conversation with something innocuous like the weather or the price of school uniform (not The Archers) and then pretend that everything they say is really interesting. Be sure to do the motions; cocking your head to one side and bobbing it up and down after every word they say, and repeat “Oh, really!” at regular intervals.

Once you’ve had your initial break-the-ice conversation and they walk away smiling, then, unless you discover they’ve moved their child to a school on the other side of the county you can pretty much guarantee that you’re onto a winner, (feel free to do a Mini Air Punch). However, it might be a little too soon to behave as though they’re your bessy mate. Calling them a ‘crusty old twat’, that kind of thing, is probably too much, too soon.

Always compliment your new friend, especially in the early stages of the friendship. For instance, tell her that she has lovely skin (yes, even if she has pig-trotter skin, especially if she has pig-trotter skin) and she’ll stroke her face and say “what this old thing”. Be warned, a response of “don’t talk bollocks” probably means she’s not buying it, and you should probably try someone else for a NBM (New Bessy Mate). However, if it’s a man you’re trying to compliment, simply tell him he’s a hunk of Brad Pitt proportions and it’s highly likely he’ll believe you, even if there’s a bulging weight of evidence to the contrary.

Be sure to say nice things about your new friend’s hair, clothing, weight and sense of dress. But be careful with this. Saying “What a lovely dress, it suits your skin colour’ is good. But “Your shoes make you breasts look huge”, not so much.

Everyone loves to be funny so laugh out loud at everything your new friend says (unless they tell you their dog just died) and they will forever seek you out. (Note: if they start knocking on your door to recite their repertoire of gags about blobfish, you’ve probably gone too far on the laughing-at-their-jokes front, so tone it down a little.)

Contrary to popular belief, arriving at the school gates wearing your PJs is a definite No No, unless you own Gucci slippers and an Yves St Laurent onesie. Remember money will always buy you friends, even if they want only your money and not your sparkling repartee.

The lesson – if you want to make playground friends then you have to talk to people. Don’t hide at home. It’s hard to make friends if you send your husband/mum/postman/dog to pick up the kids.

Do you have any stories of winning new playground friends? I’d love to hear it.

(Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely co-incidental.)

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