While some kids thrive at free play during recess, others may find playing—or even interacting with their classmates during recess—overwhelming. Enter the Buddy Bench, a bench that some schools are installing to help students feel less alone and isolated. Read on to find out what the Buddy Bench is all about and how you can install one at your school.

So, What Is the Buddy Bench?
The concept is simple: any child sitting on a Buddy Bench indicates to his peers that he would like company. Whether kiddo is feeling overwhelmed, shy or just having an off day, sitting on the bench means he would like someone to talk to or play with.

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Raising Money for a Buddy Bench
Girl Scouts recently posted on their Instagram page, a photo of Ariana who used the money she raised selling cookies to buy a Buddy Bench and donate it to her school. A portion of the caption reads, “It’s a piece of playground furniture that has the power to promote inclusion and empathy.”

Ariana joins Christian—and likely countless others—who in 2013 had a buddy bench installed at his Elementary School after hearing about this concept from a school overseas (read more of Christian’s story here).

Interested in installing a buddy bench at your school? Click here for some strategies to make it happen.

Buddy Bench Requires Supervision
Carole Lieberman, MD, psychiatrist and author of Lions and Tigers and Terrorists, Oh My! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror opened up to Parents.com. She tells them that “sometimes bullies can take advantage of the vulnerability of the kid who sits down hoping to make a friend. It could be tempting for bullies to make fun of them.” So, if you or your family are passionate about bringing a Buddy Bench to your own school, we suggest speaking with teachers and administration about how best to supervise it.

— Erin Lem