On the school playground is a colourful bench painted an eye-catching array of colours: red, green, yellow and blue.
The bench has been dubbed ‘the bench of friends’ because when a child is feeling lonely or can’t find someone to play with, they’ll sit on the bench and, seeing them there, others will invite them to play.
Sharing the idea on the Call To Activism Facebook page, the parent said they’d asked their son if he’d used it himself, to which he replied: “Yes at the beginning of the year when I was new here.
“I sat there and another student came to invite me to play with him. This made me happy. And now when I see someone sitting there, I also invite them to play.”
The parent said the bench was “a great idea on mutual aid and kindness to implement in playgrounds”. And people couldn’t agree more.
“What a lovely idea! No child should ever feel lonely or friendless,” said Sandy Schindler in the comments section.
“So smart,” added Deborah Lawhorn. “Such a great way to teach, help them learn to be kind and know it’s ok if u need to set on the bench to get someone to play with. Wonderful!”
In 2019, a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 45% of children said they felt lonely ‘often’ or ‘some of the time’. We also know children living in poverty are more likely to feel lonely than their peers.
So initiatives like this can make a difference.
The idea of a ‘buddy bench’ has been around for some time, with different schools sharing their own spin on it.
It’s thought to have become popular in the US after a boy named Christian Bucks from Pennsylvania was set to move to Germany with his parents.
At one of the new schools they scoped out, Christian and his parents noticed a special bench on the playground. When they asked what it was for, they were told it was for children who were feeling lonely and needed someone to reach out to them.
Thinking it was a great initiative, Christian took the idea back to the principal of his school in the US where they fundraised for their own buddy bench to be installed.
While his family never did move to Germany, that trip to a German school proved fateful as he’s since sparked a movement of buddy benches across US schools.
One study has found solitary behaviour among students decreased by 19-24% after buddy benches were installed.
Another, which involved interviews with school staff and parents, found buddy benches helped students understand that everyone feels lonely at times.
Back in 2016, Christian told the Washington Post: “I didn’t like to see kids lonely at recess when everyone is just playing with their friends.”