Little Susie is an outright rockstar. She loves to sing, dance, run, jump, climb, talk, laugh and do what happy five-year olds do. But only when she’s alone or with her parents. On play dates, at birthday parties or during family functions, the exuberant Susie withdraws in her shell. Participating in any social event or function is a big step out of her comfort zone for Susie.

And she’s not the only one. Chances are, you know and love a Susie in your own social circle. Shyness is a common trait shared by countless kids around the globe. It’s usually higher in toddlers and kindergartners, but can be seen in older children as well. The good news is, most eventually grow out it, with or without outside help. And until they do, there are several things that can be done to make functions happier and less stressful for them.

Shy children and social functions

When it comes to planning for shy kids, there are two things parents and planners need to know. 1) Shy kids want in on the fun. Yes, even the most shiest of your little guests – the ones sitting quietly in a corner with their nose buried in a book or a video game – are aching to participate in all the fun and merry-making going on around them. It’s not that they are uninterested. They’re inhibited.

2) By planning activities that allow these shy rockstars to “warm up” and feel comfortable, you can break them out of their shell and ensure maximum participation and enjoyment. Keeping these two points in mind, let’s see a couple of things you can do to help shy children have fun at your function.

Planning a function for the shy child

Planning a play-date, birthday party, or any other function for your shy child can be tough. However, do it right and it can actually become a lesson in overcoming shyness. The key is to understand shyness first. There area number of reasons why your child may be shy and knowing the triggers will help you plan a better party.

Here are five things to consider:

• Keep the gathering small – The smaller the crowd, the less anxious your shy child will feel at their own function. Invite people that your child knows and remembers. You can always throw a separate party for the adults.

• Choose a familiar venue – The goal is to minimise the number of “new” things and people your child comes across on their big day. Your own home, or their favourite park of playground will make for the perfect venue.

• Don’t put them under the spot light – Keep things low key when it comes to the child. For instance, when bringing out the cake for the birthday party, try to tone things down a little. If plan to hire a clown or a magician, ask them not to put your child on centre stage.

• Plan activities that let them be – It will be much easier for your child to enjoy the function if they are engrossed in activities that they enjoy. Party games and activities such as colouring or bobbing for apples, where children can function on their own will help them feel at ease while participating. You can download and print an array of fun colouring games from here.

• Lead by example – Ask your child to follow you around as you meet with and greet guests, or pass the hors d’oeuvres. Don’t push the shy little star to shake hands or make conversation. Just let them watch you being social. However, when someone from the party talks to your child, resist the temptation of answering for them. Stand by your child’s side but let them struggle a bit and provide their own answer.

Planning a function where shy children will be in attendance

Similar to how you would be cautious about putting your shy kid under the spotlight, be more easy-going with the shy little guests at your party. Have plenty of individual activities like the ones discussed above, so that the kids can enjoy themselves. Hire popular superheroes or princess characters to motivate shy children to participate. Better yet, ask the hired entertainer to interact with shy children individually.

Your hired Superman can for instance, sit beside the child in the corner and strike up a conversation, or present a small balloon animal and then move to another child. The key is to strike a balance between giving them individual attention and freedom.

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