Teaching Preschoolers about Friendship

Social Skills for Developing Friendship in Daycare

During the early years, learning to create and nurture friendships is one step in social development. As young children develop, they to create and nurture friendships.

Helping children learn to form rewarding and mutually enjoyable friendships involves understanding what preschoolers understand about friendship and then helping them develop the social skills they must possess in order to form these friendships.

What Preschoolers Understand about Friendship

Children in preschool generally desire to play and have friends with others. Preschool children, who are in the Piagetian preoperational stage of development, are driven by fantasy play, so their development of friendship is around ‘pretend’ like playing house and other types of pretend play. “Preschoolers are moving from parallel play into cooperative play, although they have not yet mastered cooperation, which includes mutual sharing. Therefore, we see a lot of fighting and territorial behavior. This comes as preschool progresses into kindergarten,” says Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist and author of The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask [Sourcebook, 2010].

Some children, however, are more developmentally advanced than others. This is where the guidance of the teachers or parents has to come into play. “Children in preschool may possess the need to interact with other children but not understand behavior enough to execute the interactions well. An example is sharing,” says Susan Cooper, educator, author, and member of Applied Scholastic International. According to Cooper, this is part of friendship and of social interactions with friends. Most children have to learn how to share and can’t be expected to always get it right.

Social Skills Necessary for Developing Friendships

There are several social skills that children need to possess in order to form rewarding, mutually enjoyable friendships. Developing positive peer relationships is important in childhood and later in life.

To begin with, children need to learn how to communicate in its simplest terms. This begins with giving children structured times when they get to practice talking with their peers. “It includes the basics, looking at your friend when you speak, making sure your friend is listening and ready, letting your friend answer you, and then acknowledging that you heard the answer or response,” says Cooper.