Friendship skills with the Moomins

Monday, February 12, 2024

Happy Valentine's Day! In Finland, we celebrate friendships on Valentine's Day and in Finnish the day is called Ystävänpäivä = Friend's Day.

What is Friendship?

To establish and maintain friendships, children need various skills. Emotional and interaction skills are needed when meeting new people and maintaining friendships. Later in life, these skills do not go out of date - on the contrary.

However, children are not born with these important friendship skills, and so they need to be practised. Children must get possibilities to practise friendship skills already in early childhood. According to the Finnish Red Cross, practising friendship skills may even prevent various behavioural challenges and loneliness.

Friendship Skills with the Moomins programme

The Finnish Red Cross has developed a programme in which children can practice their Friendship Skills with the Moomins! Friendship skills with the Moomins learning materials can be used to practise friendship skills together with children.

The exercises in the materials are intended for early childhood education. The material is free and printable online. The material is great for daycare groups, for example when the group is new and there is a need to build some team spirit. But to be honest, practising friendship skills is useful throughout the school year. The instructions in the materials are intended for groups, but the materials can be also used one-on-one with a child if that is preferable.

Before you start going through the Friendship Skills with the Moomins materials with children, it is recommended that the educator gets to know the material beforehand. Each section starts with a short introduction text intended for adults.

Structure and use of the learning material

There are five different sections:
Each section contains:
  • a mindfulness exercise
  • an introductory video or picture set
  • functional exercises
  • a shared challenge
You can go through all the exercises in the section, or you can select the ones that are most useful for your group. The exercises often require space for movement and sometimes also e.g. pencils and paper or some small objects.
All pictures, videos and materials to be printed can be found assembled at the end of the material, should you want to utilise them separately.
Estimated run-through times have been indicated for all exercises, but these may vary depending on the interest and participation levels of the group and children. You can work through all of the exercises in a section in one go or divide them into more than one separate session. 
It is good practice to leave some time between the sections, for example, a week. This way you can return to the themes discussed in the section, practise skills in authentic situations and observe the impact of the exercises.
Reflecting on the thoughts and feelings provoked by the exercises is also a way to practise self-knowledge, which is one of the key themes in the Friendship Skills with the Moomins materials. Therefore, it is recommended to reflect the themes afterwards. Have a short discussion about what the exercises in the section felt like; was one of the exercises especially fun, easy, weird, difficult, boring, familiar or new? Remember that children's experiences, observations and feelings are allowed.

Getting to Know a New Friend - section sample

Getting to know a new friend section helps children manage the feelings talking to someone new may bring. Here is an example of one exercise:

Anxiety (15–20 mins)

Moomintroll gets to know a new friend -video on Youtube

Discuss anxiety together:
Moomintroll was really anxious about getting to know Snufkin. Getting to know a new friend can sometimes be very exciting. We often wonder in advance what someone else thinks about us, whether they like us and whether we become friends.
Discuss together:  
  • When was the last time you were nervous?
  • What did it feel like? 
  • Where in your body did you feel it?
  • What does being anxious look like on the outside?
  • If anxiety were a colour, which colour would it be?


Friendship party

Once you have gone through all of the materials, you can celebrate this accomplishment with the group by throwing a Moominvalley friendship party!
Ideas for a party for friends with the Moomins:
  • lights, streamers and lanterns for decorations
  • dressing up as Moomin characters (make masks etc)
  • eating together at the same table
  • pancakes, juice, fruit and other small treats for snacks
  • preparing fun performances for others
  • playing the games in the materials again
  • putting on some music and dancing

Moomin books?

You can combine the Friendship Skills with the Moomins materials with Moomin stories, making the material come alive. The following novels by Tove Jansson support the themes of the material, for example:
We hope you enjoy Friendship Skills with the Moomins!
The Friendship Skills with the Moomins materials have been produced by the Red Cross and made possible by LähiTapiola and Moomin Characters. The materials are based on the Friendship Skills programme intended for young people and young adults, which was produced by the Red Cross in cooperation with MIELI Mental Health Finland.
Get all the Moomin Friendship Skills materials from here <3
Happy Friendship Day!