Preschool friendship: Social skills start in early childhood

Learn how to encourage your little social butterfly to build early friendships

Preschool friendship: Social skills start in early childhood

At age 3-5, your preschooler views a friend as anybody with whom they spend time and play.

Friendships help preschoolers develop social and emotional skills and a sense of belonging. Friendships also help to relieve stress and build self-esteem.

Learning to make friends

Making friends is a skill that does not come easy for all children. Consider these guidelines regarding your preschooler and friendships:

  • Know your preschooler’s temperament. Your preschooler’s temperament can affect their ease in making friends. Children who are approachable are outgoing and can easily ask others to play. Children who are more cautious need time to warm up to other children. Understanding your child’s temperament will help you to promote friendships within your child’s comfort level. Contact Sanford Parenting Services to complete a temperament profile for your child.
  • Avoid comparing. Don’t compare your preschooler’s number of friends to another child’s number of friends. Some children like to have many friends, while others prefer only one or two friends.
  • Understand your child’s development level. Your child’s social and emotional development will affect your child’s ease in making friendships. Be aware that your child is constantly growing and learning new skills. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s development, talk to your family health care provider.

Encouraging friendships

Learning how to make friends evolves over time. Review these suggestions to help your child make and maintain friendships.

  • Learn to take turns. Play games together that require you and your preschooler to take turns. For example, Connect 4, matching game, or Candy Land.
  • Read books. Read books about friendships and being a good friend. “How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague and “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister are great examples.
  • Encourage playdates. Set aside time for your child to play with a friend outside of school or day care. This will allow bonding time and sharing of his or her favorite toys and games.
  • Practice makes perfect. Friendships are full of ups and downs. Work out tough friendship situations with your child and model how your child can manage these types of conflicts in the future.
  • Be supportive. Be encouraging but not forceful. Your child may need some support in making new friends. Make sure you are aware of your child’s comfort level. Acknowledge their feelings and concerns about friendships.

Making friends is an ongoing process throughout the preschool years. During this time a lot of growth and learning takes place. Be supportive and understanding of your child as they build friendships.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting