For many children, preschool is the first introduction to social norms and expectations in a large group of peers and outside their family. Yet, social skills, just like brushing their teeth and tying their shoes, aren't something with which preschool students are born. This is why preschoolers benefit from parents, teachers and primary caregivers who model and instruct them in appropriate social skills and interactions, according to Auburn University's Extension Program in Child Development.
Teach your preschooler how to be flexible when joining. According to researchers at Auburn University's Extension Program in Child Development, children who learn how to join a game that's already in progress without disrupting the other kids demonstrate stronger peer relationships than kids who burst into a game demanding to fill a specific role. If your child approaches a group of preschoolers playing school, instruct him to think of ways he might be able to play without changing the game in progress. For example, if the other kids are playing police officers, offer to be another officer, or if they're playing restaurant, ask to be the second cook.
Practice and expect basic social graces when interacting with your preschooler. According to "Developing Social Skills in Preschoolers," a publication released by the Learning Express website, practicing basic social skills, such as making eye contact, waiting for her to finish speaking, and taking turns -- and reminding her to do the same -- are foundational tools in developing proper social graces and becoming more socially competent. Remind your little one to do the same before the start of a play date or birthday party.
Play with your preschooler in a peer-like way. This means getting down to his level and brainstorming ideas of what to build out of the wooden blocks. While it's fine to suggest ideas, you should avoid being too directive or critical, according to Auburn University's Extension Program Child Development Center. "Could we build a boat with the flags?" is preferable to "These flags are for boats, so we should build boats."
- Offer plenty of opportunities for your preschooler to interact with socially competent peers through unstructured play dates.
- Practice positive interactions in daily life, like saying "please" and "thank you" to each other at home, rather than scolding or criticizing her social skills.
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