Friendship can be tricky to navigate at any age. While preschoolers have advantages in many ways (kids can typically bond more quickly with a new friend than adults), they also have a lot that can get in the way of positive friendships. This is a time when it’s difficult to share, difficult to manage emotions, and difficult to interpret others’ behaviors. Use these tips to help your preschooler make friends.
Honor Your Child’s Friendship Style
Every child approaches friendships differently. Some want as many friends as they can collect, constantly on the lookout for a new buddy to bring into their welcome fold. Others may stand back, preferring alone time or one close and familiar friend. And of course, there is a wide spectrum of friendship engagement between these two examples.
Pay attention to what fulfills your child in friendship and help your child find situations where they can be comfortable in friendship.
How to Help Your Child Enter a Friendship Situation:
If your child wants to join a group but doesn’t know how, try these tips:
- Teach them how to take a minute and watch what others are doing. As they observe the playgroup to see what they are playing, they can come up with ways they can be a part of the make-believe. For example, you could point to a friend and say, “What animal is she pretending to be? Do you think you could be an animal or a trainer?”
- Your child can also invite children to join in their play by asking for help. “Can you help me build this road?”
Provide Space for Practice
In the safety of your home, you can give your child opportunities to develop skills that transfer to friendship groups.
For example, play a simple card game or have a family soccer match. In these interactions with you and siblings, your preschooler will learn about taking turns, following rules, emotional control, and handling both wins and disappointment graciously.
Around the dinner table, your child can learn about listening to others, showing interest in what others have to say, adding to conversations, and yes — taking turns again!
During play, you can teach skills like how to introduce yourself. Pick up a stuffed animal, and have it introduce itself to your child. “Hello. My name is Twinkle Toes. Would you like to play blocks with me?”
Model Healthy Communication
Friendship is about respecting the other person, caring about what they care about, and being considerate of their feelings.
You can model this in your interactions with your child. When you ask them to do something, use a respectful tone and language. When they are upset or excited, show genuine concern or interest.
If your child gets upset about the color cup they receive, for example, don’t dismiss their feelings; instead, say, “You really wanted the blue cup didn’t you. I’m sorry you’re disappointed.”
This respectful and caring treatment will transfer to your child’s interactions with their peers, and they will learn to be respectful and empathetic.
Tips for Playdate Success
When you host a playdate, consider how to set up the environment to make the playdate as successful as possible.
- Schedule the playdate for a time that the children are more likely to be well rested and happy.
- Be prepared with healthy snacks.
- Put away your child’s most special toys, and talk about how to share the rest of the toys.
- Stay nearby to keep an eye on how the children are interacting. Let them work out problems together — to a point. If things are getting dangerous or unkind, step in and help the children resolve their issues.
- Consider toys and activities that foster cooperation instead of competition.
- Finish the playdate on a high note — before the children get too tired.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we focus on character traits, like compassion and respect, that help children in their friendships. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.