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How to Help Your Preschooler Establish Healthy Friendships


Even in their early years, a child can learn valuable lessons about social interaction, empathy, and communication. How their friendships play out in a stage like their preschool days can lay the foundation for many of their most important future relationships.

Parents play a vital role in empowering preschoolers to discover and develop healthy friendships with their peers. As a parent to a preschooler, you should commit to providing guidance and to being a positive role model, much like their teachers are doing.

 

There’s a lot you can do to help your child navigate the complexities of early friendship dynamics and encourage meaningful connections with their peers—for example, the following:

1) Encourage Social Interaction

One of the most effective ways to help your preschooler develop healthy friendships is by motivating them to interact with other children more. There are plenty of ways to go about this. You can arrange play dates with other children, for example, or enrol your child in group activities or classes.

A local preschool that recognises the value of helping children develop interpersonal relationships can offer your child plenty of fun opportunities to engage with peers. Consider a school like Kinderland Singapore. Kinderland's approach encourages toddlers to interact with others during their music lessons—an activity that can help them build social skills and confidence as well as instil in them a sense of belonging. Parents can find evidence of this through avenues like Kinderland’s YouTube channel.

2) Model Positive Relationships

As a parent, you serve as a powerful role model for your child's behaviour and attitudes towards relationships. Make the most of this influence by modelling positive relationships.

You can do this by demonstrating kindness, empathy, and respect in your interactions with family members, friends, and acquaintances. Show your child how to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts peacefully, too. Showing examples of healthy relationship dynamics will allow you to provide your child with a blueprint for building positive relationships of their own, including friendships.

3) Teach Empathy and Understanding

Empathy is a foundational skill for healthy relationships, and parents play a key role in teaching their preschoolers how to understand and empathise with others. Teach your child how to process and share the feelings of others by talking to them about emotions and encouraging them to take the perspective of another person into consideration. You can also ask them how their actions and words may impact others, like their friends.

4) Practise Communication Skills with Them

Effective communication is a core element for any healthy friendship, and parents can support their preschoolers in developing these skills from an early age. Listening actively, expressing their thoughts and feelings, and talking about their needs and preferences clearly and respectfully are basic skills that can help even young children be understood by others.

You can practise these skills through role-playing, storytelling, and interactive games. The strong communication skills that your child can develop from these exercises will help them navigate social interactions confidently and assertively and put them on the path towards establishing valuable new friendships.

5) Set Play Date Guidelines

Outside school, play dates are often the best opportunities for preschoolers to practise their budding social skills. But remember that they don’t know everything yet about social cues, subtler shifts in another person’s emotions, or when their behaviour may be affecting the dynamics on the playground. This is where you come in.

Help your child and their playmates make the most of their play date interactions by establishing clear guidelines and expectations for the activity. Teach your child the importance of sharing, taking turns, and resolving conflicts peacefully.

Before the event, you can also provide guidance on how to initiate play and invite others to join activities. These lessons can make play dates a more effective tool for reinforcing positive social norms and values.

6) Provide Supportive Guidance

Friendship dynamics are a challenging thing for adults to learn—what more preschoolers? Knowing that, be ready to provide valuable guidance and support to your child to help them navigate more complex social situations.

As early as now, talk them through how to deal with thornier emotions, like annoyance at a playmate, or how to handle peer pressure. Establish yourself as a supportive and trusted confidante so that your child can be confident and knowledgeable in their interactions with others.

7) Celebrate Diversity

If you’re from a country like Singapore, it only makes sense to expose your preschooler to diverse experiences, cultures, and perspectives from an early age. Enrich your child’s understanding of the world and promote inclusive attitudes towards others, including potential friends, by providing them with as many opportunities as possible to engage with peers from diverse backgrounds.

You can do this by playing games from different places, reading books from different perspectives, and taking part in cultural activities together—perhaps also in the company of other SG families. Celebrating diversity in this manner will help your child develop empathy, compassion, and acceptance towards others.

8) Promote Independence and Autonomy

Also encourage your preschooler to take initiative and to assert themselves in their friendships so that they can develop independence, autonomy, and confidence. Allow your child to make choices, express their preferences, and take ownership of their social interactions.

Assume a supportive stance when your child is making decisions, solving problems, and advocating for themselves and others in their friendships. Your encouragement empowers your child to develop healthy boundaries, which is a key element in healthy relationships.

9) Encourage Healthy Boundaries

That said, teaching your preschooler about healthy boundaries in friendships is essential for promoting respect, autonomy, and self-esteem among all parties. Talk to your child about the importance of respecting personal space and honouring individual preferences, be it their own or that of their peers.

Make sure your child knows that they can safely communicate and assert their boundaries, and guide them on how to respond to peer pressure and work through more challenging social situations.


Your preschooler will draw comfort and joy from their earliest friendships, and these are sure to affect their social and emotional development. The strategies mentioned above should help your child become a better friend, as well as learn what they should expect from a healthy and rewarding friendship.