My usually bright, feisty, full of life, three year old boy was sullen, withdrawn and sad and it took me the better part of a week to figure out why he suddenly didn’t want to go to preschool any more.
“No one will play with me” he said with tears rolling down his cheeks…
He seems so sad and confused by this strange occurrence, he thought that going to preschool would mean lots of friends and people to play with.
My heart breaks a little for him, but I smile, because I know that going to preschool will mean lots of friends and people to play with, but it will take time to learn how to make friends, how to join in, and how to deal with the disappointment of being told ‘you can’t play’.
Children are not born innately knowing how to play together. Social play is a skill that develops over time and is dependent on a child’s age and stage of development.
Ways to Help Preschoolers Make Friends
1. Don’t expect too much too soon
At around three years of age children are only just taking their very first steps in developing more social play. They most often engage in Parallel Play (see table below). At three to four years of age Associative Play develops and children begin to interact with each other during play, but only sometimes. They are slowly beginning to understand the concept of ‘friendship’ and wanting to play with others.
Expecting children at this stage to play complex, co-operative, social games without adult support is probably expecting too much.