Blog cover for 3 main areas to focus on when teaching friendship skills to preschoolers

Young children want to connect. They want to be friends. But their individual abilities to connect with others and build relationships can vary. We end up spending a big part of our day putting out fires, solving conflicts, and negotiating who’s turn it is!

As an educator, you want to be there to support them as they learn to build relationships. Do you wonder where to start or what main areas to focus on? Wonder no more. This post will help you get intentional about teaching friendship skills to preschoolers.

Cover image for blog post titled 3 main areas to focus on when teaching friendship skills to preschoolers
When teaching friendship skills to preschoolers, we need to focus on three main areas: Ways to be a good friend, Kindness & Empathy.

Before I jump right in with my tips, I wanted to share with you my latest FREEBIE – Conflict Resolution Booklet.  What can we do to solve some common preschool problems? Who’s turn is it? Not sharing? Best friend squabbles?

Jump over to my FREEBIES page to get the Conflict Resolution Booklet now.

Image for conflict resolution booklet for preschoolers
Download and use this conflict resolution booklet with your preschoolers to remind them of ways to solve a problem.

Building Friendships in Preschool

When it comes to building friendships in preschool, children need to first develop ‘social competence’.

This means being able to interact with others with care, empathy, and respect. This is the foundation for understanding and relating to others.

As educators, we can support children in developing their ‘social competence’ by:

  • Knowing Our Students:  Understand their challenges. What their abilities are and where they may need support.
  • Looking at our Environment: Analyze how these environments contribute to building positive relationships.

☑️ Does this setting allow children to interact well with each other? For example, are there enough trucks for the number of children to share? Is there enough space in the block area to build?

☑️ Are there opportunities for group play or group artwork?

☑️ Do you have a dedicated space to gather as a group and share a story or connect?

  • Examine your relationship with the children.

☑️ Are you interacting with the children with empathy, care, and respect?

☑️ Do you foster an environment where children are confident and capable?

☑️ Are you connecting every day with your children?

☑️ Are you allowing the children to connect with each other in a meaningful way?

“We often forget that our students are our mirrors. Their behavior mirrors to us what we need to work on and look at. Their behavior tells us what we need to work on within ourselves, our classroom routines and our classroom culture.”

Spark Interest with Sara
Quote from a teacher blog highlighting the main areas to focus on when teaching friendship skills to preschoolers.
Consider this: What is your student’s behavior telling you?
  • Be Intentional in Your Planning. Social-emotional learning competencies should be explicitly taught.  CASEL speaks of the five competencies that promote SEL. They say, free-standing lessons that provide explicit instructions to teach students social and emotional competencies, go hand in hand with ongoing teaching practices that promote social-emotional learning.
Image of the CASEL wheel which encourages preschool lessons on friendship
Social-emotional learning competencies should be explicitly taught.

Image taken from CASEL

      

We need to be intentional in planning activities and lessons around friendship skills. WHY?

  • This will give your students a guide and an understanding of expectations.
  • It will give them strategies to use to deal with issues that may arise.
  • It will give them a deeper understanding of themselves and other people.

References:

ACECQA: Relationships with Children

CASEL: Teaching Activities that Support the Core Competencies of SEL

Friendship Lessons for Preschoolers

When creating friendship lessons for preschoolers, these are the 3 main areas to focus on:

When teaching friendship skills to preschoolers, kindness, empathy and ways to be a good friend should be the main areas to teach.
When teaching friendship skills to preschoolers, kindness, empathy, and ways to be a good friend should be the main focus areas.

1. Ways to be a Good Friend

Our preschoolers need to understand what it means to be a good friend. What can we do to teach children what it means to be a good friend?

  • Read stories to get children thinking and talking.

Image for Ways to be a good friend resource.
This read-aloud story about friendship will get the children discussing ‘Ways to be a Good Friend’.
  • Highlight what friends say and do. What do friends do? What kind of words and phrases do good friends say?
  • Role-play what good friends do in different social scenarios.
  • Create a class Friendship Challenge. Create a challenge for each day where the children have to complete one challenge. Each act will allow children to practice what it means to be a good friend.

               

Image of a preschool friendship activity.
Get your preschoolers inspired with a friendship challenge that everyone can get involved in!
  • Show recognition and gratitude to each other by drawing each other pictures. Show appreciation to others by giving thank you notes.

2. Kindness Ideas for Preschoolers

Develop a culture of kindness in your classroom. Build friendship and kindness activities for preschoolers into your day. How can we do this?

Here are some kindness ideas for preschoolers:

  • Read books on kindness. Nothing beats a thoughtful and purposeful picture book. Be intentional with the books you read. Think  about the question prompts beforehand to guide discussions.
  • Get your children thinking and talking about what kindness looks and what it feels like. Discuss real life situations you notice in the classroom. That will bring to life what kindness means in action.

How can we show kindness in every situation? To get your children talking, download these FREE Kindness Scenario Discussion Cards.

  • Give children practice by role playing situations. How can we sprinkle kindness into a situation. Use puppets to get children involved in practicing ways to be kind.
  • Make it part of your classroom culture. Instill that sense of kindness, empathy and respect into your classroom culture. Make it expected, valued and the norm.

3. Lessons on Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Understanding what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. Most of our young learners are beginning to develop empathy in preschool. Having thoughtful and intentional lessons on empathy will help guide them.

Here are some ways you can introduce more intentional activities on empathy:

  • Read stories and discuss what is happening in the story. What is happening with the person? How are they feeling? Why do you think they are feeling that way?
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It is important to discuss ways to show empathy by the things we say and the things we do. Use stories to stimulate discussion.
  • Children learn from the adults and other children around them. They watch and listen to how we interact with others. Are we demonstrating empathy in our daily interactions in the classroom?
  • Start introducing your students to the wider world. What is happening in their communities? We have discussed the impact of drought, bushfires and floods in my classroom. Is there some way to help?

“The more intention you put into developing friendship skills with your preschoolers, the better the outcome is for everyone!”

Spark Interest with Sara
Quote from teaching friendship skills in preschool blog post
Be intentional about what skills you want to develop with your preschoolers.
Friendship Activities for Preschoolers

I hope this post has inspired you, to get more purposeful and intentional in teaching friendship skills to preschoolers.

If you are looking for more ideas on friendship activities, check out my post below.  Grab some quick tips to fit friendship activities into your day:

🌈5 Ways to Easily Fit Friendship Activities into Your Day

🌈7 Fun and Engaging Activities About Friendship for Preschool Classrooms

Some other good reads/videos:

I’d love to hear what you do in your classroom. Leave a comment or connect with me on socials.

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Use these Free Conflict Resolution Booklet to get children talking about ways they can solve some common problems they may encounter in preschool.

One last thing before you go, Don’t forget to grab my 👉🏼 FREE Conflict Resolution Booklet 👈🏼

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Hi! Welcome to Spark Interest with Sara!

I am a preschool teacher, a curriculum designer, a course creator and a mum to a gorgeous boy who keeps me on my toes! 

Creating and sharing inspiring educational resources and courses for teachers and parents is my passion! I wake up every day excited to be able to be part of nurturing young minds and hearts! 

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Sara