How Children Build Friendships at Preschool

Children Build Friendships at Preschool


Last week we looked at the foundations of how children build friendships at the baby and toddler stage (if you missed that article, then you can read it here) and the challenges involved in this preliminary friendship stage. Today we are looking at the next stage, of how children build friendships at preschool level. This stage is not without it’s own challenges, but forming these friendship bonds does start to become slightly easier.


3 Year Olds

At age 3 children are still having some difficulty seeing things from another’s point of view, so the challenges of sharing and understanding others’ feelings are still there. It is very rare for children to form strong attachments at age 3, their friendship’s tend to be more ‘fleeting’. Because they still have relatively limited verbal communication skills they sometimes find it hard to communicate effectively with their peers. They are still also building their social skills and their strategies on making friendships work.

Often 3 year olds will quite often pick friends based on proximity or based on the item they are currently playing with. This has it’s difficulties as the friendship can very quickly be over if both children want the same item at once. The friendship may be able to recover if they can find a way to share, or they could both just as easily move onto another ‘friend’ to play with.

Three year olds will still need some help in making their friendships work. They will not always realise how their own behaviour impacts on the friendship. They will need some coaching on using their words to explain how they are feeling as opposed to snatching toys or lashing out in frustration of not being able to communicate effectively.

4 Year Olds

Four year olds are at a stage where emotionally they are starting to see things from another’s perspective. This means that they will start forming deeper emotional bonds with a special friend, often of the same sex. Because they form attachments to special friends, this can make losing that friend a particularly distressing situation. Even if they are only being lost for an hour or so, both will often feel unsettled by not having their special friend at a time they expected to.

Four year olds really want to interact with their peers and take part in group or pair play. They are able to cooperate which helps to maintain their budding friendships. When they can acknowledge the ideas of their friends and use each idea in cooperative play then he friendship is likely to succeed.

It is when one child tries to take too much of the lead that the friendship hangs in the balance. If they try to dominate the other child and force only their own ideas for play then the friendship make break if the other child does not follow the lead. The two friends will then need to decide if they value their independence over cooperation. If they choose cooperation then the friendship will continue.

While 4 year olds have the necessary skills to form friendships and special bonds with another, they still need to work at maintaining these bonds. We can help them by discussing friendships that appear between characters in books or on television. You can discuss with the 4 year old why these friendships work and how each friend behaves towards the other. Also discuss how they work together to overcome problems that threaten their bond.

How do you find your preschoolers build their friendships? My 3 year old daughter has a rare special bond with another 3 year old girl at her kindergarten. During the day they are usually inseparable. But if one decides to play with another friend the heartbreak is very real!

We would love to hear about the bonds your children form with their special friends, let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook or Instagram pages with the hashtag #babyviewpics


Gemma Knight - BioGemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!

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