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The Hood Magazine

Preschool Friendships: Social Skills Start in Early Childhood

Mar 20, 2021 05:46PM ● By Sanford Children’s CHILD Services

By:  Sanford Children’s CHILD Services  

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. They 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 and outgoing can easily ask others to play. Children who are more cautious need time to warm up to others. Understanding your child’s temperament will help you promote friendships within their comfort level.  

  • 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. 

  • Understand your child’s development level. Your child’s social and emotional development will affect their 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 with time. Review these suggestions to help your child develop and maintain friendships.  

  • Learn to take turns. Play games together that require you and your preschooler to take turns. For example, Connect 4, matching games, 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 daycare. This will allow bonding time and the chance to share their 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 they 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. Know your child’s comfort level, and 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.