Last Updated on December 13, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
When you want to make friends outside of school, it is importantly to look outside the box to think about all the places where you do our could interact with people.
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Just meeting people doesn’t equal making friends but it can be where you start.
As a mom of 9 kids who stuggled with social skills growing up, I have been very tuned in to the friend thing for my own kids. Growing up, I was surrounded by people all the time because my parents were very social. But being around people didn’t translate into making and having many friends. I usually had a couple of friends but was never part of a big friend group.
One of the most common places kids and teens expect to connect with friends is at school. But school can have some serious drawbacks to building friendships.
Often the day is highly regulated. If a child isn’t in their friend’s class, they might see them much or even have recess with them. Teens change classes for every period and often find themselves with a different group every hour. In those conditions, it can be difficult to actually build a friendship beyond aquaintances.
As a parent who has had kids who were both homeschooled and in school, here are my observations on the best ways to make friends outside of school.
10 Ways Kids Can Make Friends Outside of School
One of the biggest factors in kids making friends outside of school will be the parents or adults in their life. After all, kids need permission, transportation and often money to do different activities. But investing in a child’s social life is a worthwhile use of resources both now and in the future.
1. Participate in Outside Groups
Encourage kids to join community-based activities such as sports teams, art classes, dance lessons, or scouting groups. These activities provide opportunities for children to interact with peers who share similar interests. Oftentimes they meet more than once a week which makes it easier to make a new friend.
2. Visit parks and playgrounds near your home
Visit nearby parks, playgrounds, or recreation areas where children often gather. Encourage your child to engage with other kids they meet there by initiating games or joining ongoing activities. Parks are a great place to meet people but if it will turn into a true friendship then it is important to connect with the parent or caregiver to arrange future playdates or other activities.
3. Attend Family-Friendly Community Events
Check local event listings for family-friendly events such as fairs, festivals, parades, or community picnics. These events often offer games, entertainment, and activities that can help children connect with others. Parents should plan to follow up or connect with other adults at the same time to help budding friendships continue.
4. Enroll in Extracurricular Classes or Camps
Look for extracurricular classes or camps outside of school, such as art, music, martial arts, or STEM programs. Church camps can also be a great way to make new friends These classes and camps provide a structured environment for kids to learn and interact with peers who share similar interests.
Students who are homeschooled may benefit from attending a homeschool co-op where they can take classes with other kids and do social activities.
5. Join youth organizations
Look for youth organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Scouts, or other local clubs that offer activities and events specifically designed for children. These organizations promote teamwork, leadership, and socialization and are great places to make friends outside of school. These types of organizations also meet on a regular schedule which makes it easier for kids to build a friendship over time. They also do a lot of hands on activities together which provides plenty of time for general conversation to get to know each other.
6. Utilize online platforms for kids
If getting out to meet kids isn’t an option, you may want to explore kid-friendly online platforms that facilitate safe social interactions. Websites or apps designed for children can offer opportunities for virtual friendships and allow them to connect with other kids with parental supervision.
In additon, classes on Outschool are a great place for kids to learn about a new interest or subject and have live face to face interaction with other kids.
7. Encourage playdates beyond the classroom
Arrange playdates with children your child meets through school, extracurricular activities, or neighborhood connections. Spending time together outside of school helps strengthen friendships and allows for more relaxed and personal interactions.
You may be a parent that has a child in a class or group with limited time to socialize. A great option is to invite the whole group or team to a park or your home to do something fun together for a few hours. This can make the group feel more connected and help kids build individual friendships as well.
8. Foster connections through family and friends
Utilize your own social network to introduce your child to other kids their age. Family gatherings, neighborhood get-togethers, or events where families gather can provide opportunities for children to make friends outside of school.
As a child, I always struggled with social activities UNLESS I had a friend at the gathering already. I call that person my “Hook.” Having a familiar person makes it so much easier to “hook” into other groups…meet new people and get invitations you wouldn’t get otherwise.
9. Volunteer as a family
If your family is able to volunteer and enjoys doing it, this can be a great way to connect with people with similar values and interests. If you decide to volunteer with your kids, make sure you choose an opportunity where kids are encouraged to participate. Of course, volunteering is beneficial for so many things including teaching valuable lessons about compassion and community engagement.
10. Attend a Local Church or Faith Community
One of the keys to making good friends is to find others who share your values. Outside of school, a place that families often connect with others is at church. If you choose to attend church, be sure to find one with kids around the age of your kids and they will have a chance to see each other every week.
A key to making friends in any group is to be friendly yourself. It is important for kids to practice being friendly and approachable. Help them practice intiating conversations and asking good question.
Remember, making friends takes time and effort. Encourage your child to be patient and resilient if initial attempts don’t lead to instant friendships. Help them understand that building relationships requires mutual trust, shared experiences, and common interests.
9 Ways for Teens To Make Friends Beyond School
1. Participate in extracurricular activities
When my teens started a new school that was 30 minutes from our house, we knew that the only way that they would make friends was if they participated in extra curricular activities. They each started off the year with a fall activity like the cross-country team or robotics to help them make new friends.
Of course, extracurricular activities don’t have to happen at school either. But these activities tend to meet multiple times a week and are MUCH more social than regular classes. There is nothing like doing your favorite activities with people who also enjoy the same things to build friendships.
2. Voluteer in Local or International Projects
Participate in volunteer work or community service projects. This not only allows you to give back to your community but also provides an opportunity to meet new people who share your passion for making a difference.
My kids have enjoyed volunteering locally at a science center, a camp and a homeless mission. They have also enjoyed doing work trips outside the U.S. and worked alongside other teens to do projects in the community.
In both cases, they enjoyed meeting new people in an environment that really helped them see their own lives differently.
If volunteering is how your teen wants to make friends, be sure to find an opportunity with a regular volunteering schedule so they can hang out with the same people often.
3. Attend local events
Keep an eye out for events happening in your community, such as festivals, concerts, or workshops. These events often attract people of different ages, and you can strike up conversations with others who are attending.
Even better, suggest your teen volunteer to help at the event. Working alongside people provides an extended period of time to talk while staying busy at the same time.
4. Join online communities
Explore online platforms or forums dedicated to your hobbies, interests, or causes. Engage in discussions, share your thoughts, and connect with other individuals who share your passions.
Many parents are nervous about their teens hanging out online. I am too actually. Be sure to have regular conversations with them about who they are talking to, the types of information appropriate to share and how to move friendships from online to in person when possible.
One of my daughters has tons of online friends. She is 20 and loves to do gaming. We have met a couple of her friends in person when they came to town to visit…and we have had many many conversations over the years about what we think these online friendships should look like. Of course, our daughter is an adult. She now makes her own choices. But these conversations started when she was a teen.
5. Take up a part-time job
If your teen wants to make friends, a job is a great way to do that. Jobs are one of my favorite teen experiences for all the social, emotional and educational benefits they offer all while earning a paycheck!
Working part-time not only offers you financial independence but also exposes you to a diverse group of people, including colleagues and customers. This can lead to forming new friendships beyond the school environment along with a host of other benefits.
My kids have gotten jobs at a local McDonalds at around age 14. Some have worked there for many years. You might not think a job like this is what you want your teen to have but the opportunity to learn about customer service, food prep, and corporate structure….along with a very diverse group of employees has made it a great choice for our family.
6. Explore local youth programs
Investigate youth programs offered by your local community center, library, or recreational facilities. These programs often host workshops, classes, or social gatherings specifically designed for teenagers.
Attend workshops or classes
7. Enroll in workshops or classes outside of school that interest you.
This could be anything from art classes to coding workshops. In my area, I frequently see things like beekeeping classes or waterskiiing or survival classes. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with other teens who share your enthusiasm for the subject.
8. Connect through social media
Use social media platforms to find groups or communities centered around your interests. There are plenty of weirdos online but when used responsibility, social media can be a great way to meet people with similar interests.
Sometimes local groups have social media accounts you can join, meet people and then connect with them as real people. These groups may be for a wide range of ages and apply to ALL kinds of hobbies. In my area there are groups for people interested in gaming, gardening, hiking, sports, and much more.
9. Meet New Friends Through friends and family
Meeting new friends through existing friends and family is perhaps the most natural way to find new connections. Maybe your friend invites you to youth group, a sporting event or out to the movies. If they do and they have OTHER friends there, you will meet new people. Having that mutual friendship leads to more opportunities to do things together.
Building friendships takes time and requires effort. If you want to make friends outside of school, you will need to be more intentional and plan your activities in a way that means spending time with people instead of staying home! Be willing to try new things, talk to people who might look “different” than your other friends and be genuinely kind.
While you are taking steps to make new friends, take some time to reflect on your own qualities. Are you the kind of person that others would want to be friends with? If not, take steps to be the kind of person who others enjoy spending time with!
Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!