When your child is first learning to make friends, it can be helpful to pave the way. "But only do as much scaffolding as it takes to get kids started interacting," says personality psychologist and mom of two Heidi Smith Luedtke. "Your goal is to support your child in developing friendships, not to do the work for him."
Start by giving your child's interactions some structure. For kids who just need a little nudge, identifying their similar interests -- "Laura, here's Sally! She likes princesses too!" -- may be enough. For younger kids and those who need a bit more direction, "point out appropriate choices for play, like modeling clay or building with blocks," Luedtke says.