Trusting someone outside their usual family circle is something that every child needs to do at some point, whether it's because they are joining a sports team or going to school for the first time - they need to have faith that the people they're with are going to look after them and treat them well, even if they're only children too.
Of course, they know their parents and regular caregivers will ensure they stay out of danger, but there's a big world out there - what about everyone else? Putting faith in other people for the first time is a big part of their development.
Similarly, learning about trust will help youngsters to realise that their peers are also going to need to have faith in them, which in turn encourages them to act responsibly and kindly.
The prospect of teaching trust can sound somewhat daunting. However, you might be pleased to hear that it can be easily passed on through the use of games that are fun for you, your offspring and their friends.
Here are a few of our favourites to get you started. You can play these one-on-one or in groups of any size, and they're suitable for indoors or outside if the weather's good.
Get two children to stand next to each other and each hold one arm out towards their partner so it's fully stretched and the index finger is pointing. Next, slip an object like a light plastic ring in between the two fingers and ask the children to lower it all the way to the floor without dropping it. They'll need to use teamwork and trust that their partner is going to move when they say they will.
Blindfolded obstacle course
Remember the TV game show Knightmare? We loved it, and it's perfect inspiration for trust-based play. Just set up an obstacle course of things like folded up towels, chairs and other objects that can easily be placed around the room or garden. Then, blindfold the chosen child and put them at the start of the course. Their playmates need to guide them from one end to the other using instructions about which way to turn to avoid a collision.
Use a big piece of fabric if you're in the house or a plank of wood if you're in the garden, and place it on the floor. Again, blindfold the chosen child and get them to hold your hand (or their friends' hands at either side) as they walk along it to the other side, pretending the plank is a route across a lava-filled volcano. Alternatively, don't bother with the blindfold and ask two children to sidestep across the material or plank while holding hands, without breaking contact with each other or losing balance.
This game is best with two children, but parents and kids should also like it. Blindfold one child and tell their partner to choose a nearby object without saying what it is. For example, if you're in the garden, it might be a particular tree or a bird bath, while they could go for a piece of furniture inside the home. Next, get the youngster who can see to guide their partner to the chosen object, a little like the 'Knightmare' idea. When they're there, tell the blindfolded child to feel the object for clues before being safely guided back to the starting point. Finally, remove the blindfold and get the formerly in-the-dark youngster to guess what they were feeling by going back to touch objects in their surroundings.
Don't forget prizes!
There's nothing like the prospect of a prize for motivation, so make your games competitive by offering a reward for the winners. You could suggest half an hour's extra storytime, or promise them they can go to bed 15 whole minutes later, while a trip to the park will also go down well for kids of any age.
Trust games help little ones to learn how to play safely and manage moments of crisis while also finding out about the importance of self-discipline and risk-taking. Perhaps you could give these ideas a try the next time you're stuck for what to play?