First grade son having trouble at recess

My first grade son has been having challlenges at recess.  He says all his friends just want to play ball sports (four square, wall ball and the like) and they are telling him he's not very good. And he is somewhat uncoordinated for this age. We are trying to help him develop some new strategies (find a new friend who wants to play the games you are interested in, etc) but he's resistant, and sad. Ideas?

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Does your school have Playworks coaches? Playworks is a nonprofit in Oakland that provides playground coaches to teach the kids good social skills along with a wide variety of games for every level. In my opinion, it is a better anti-bullying program than any of the dedicated anti-bullying programs I have seen. I recommend them highly - they can help your kid get better at stuff and encourage other kids to be kinder. It's hard to direct this stuff from home. 

Go after school or over the weekend and practice the games with your son so he can develop skills needed to enjoy recess with the friends he is spending the most time with. Bring a few friends (his/yours) to help you with practice to provide a neutral balance so it'll be more fun (not just a parent thing, but a group experience, I think will boost his confidence overall).

Could you get onto the school grounds on the weekends and practice those games with him?  It might be less stressful to learn how to do the games in a parent-led setting, than to try to find kids to make friends with who don't play the games.  Playground games are relatively easy to master IF the child can play them frequently.  Also, in a 1st - 3rd grade recess, you could suggest that the yard duty teacher make one court a 1st & 2nd grade court and another court the 3rd grade court.  

My daughter was like this for a while- we actually ended up going to an Occupational Therapist initially for ADHD but as an amazing side effect, all her coordination and active/sports based skills improved tremendously.  She was the girl that in 1st grade feigned a hurt leg just so she wouldn't have to be seen stumbling in Soccer Shots- and now she actively seeks out sports she is interested in and has her confidence back!  She was tested initially and was found positive for vertigo, which is a vestibular funtion issue- its actually really common to have this issue and it affects body awareness.

See if the teacher can set him up with a friend from class. The teacher may have a sense of what connection will "click."

School can be tough. Having even one friend who "gets you" makes a huge difference.

Another option to consider is getting him into an activity outside of school based on his interests. Then he will build a foundation of friendship and gain some confidence, too.

You've gotten some great suggestions, but I would also suggest that you meet with the teacher, principal, yard duties, whoever, and get that nastiness shut down. It is NOT healthy (or normal, imho, based on 16 years teaching 2nd and 3rd grades) for first graders to be that competitive and mean. I know that if I heard that kind of talk on my watch, I would immediately get some 4th or 5th graders to play those kids so they can see what it feels like to be "not good." And then, of course, we would have a healthy conversation. No matter how much you practice games with your son, there will always be somebody better and those mean kids will still be mean-if not to him than to somebody else. I do hope he gets tired of it too, and finds some like-minded, nicer kids.

How uncoordinated is your child?  Although I had friends as a child, I suffered at school recesses because do to my motor difficulties, I was unable to take part in many of the activities and definitely impacted my self-esteem.  You might want to ask your pediatrician if your son's gross and fine motor skill development is age appropriate and whether you should request a Student Study Team meeting at his school to discuss ways of helping your son's motor development and his social integration at school.

My son is/was similar - interested in the playground games but not much ability compared to peers. Obviously the peers notice, and to me it is overreacting to call it bullying when peers comments on differences in ability. We did buy some playground balls and practice the games with him on the weekend, so I'd second that recommendation. What helped the most honestly was moving up a grade and sharing the playground with younger kids who were more at his ability level. And BTW we are a Playworks school too, but there's only one coach spread out at recess, s/he is not going to have time to help one little kid every day with 4-square!