At a glance
Cliques start to form as early as preschool.
Preschoolers might want to be friends with kids who have similar skills.
Kids whose skills aren’t as developed yet may feel left out.
Cliques don’t form too often in preschool, but it happens sometimes. Skill level varies a lot at this age. And kids who are behind in their skills might be left out more than other kids.
When kids form their own friendships and groups of friends, it’s usually with kids who have similar skills. Kids who can’t yet catch a ball or color in the lines may feel left out.
Here are some ways you can help your preschooler handle school cliques.
Guide your child to the right group.
Some kids are shy on the playground. They might want to join other kids, but don’t know how. Or they might never get invited to play.
Find out who your child wants to play with. Then ask the teacher about that group. Does your child have the skills to play the way they do? If not, ask what might be a better group for your child. See if the teacher can help guide your child to play with those kids.
Help your child build self-control.
Lots of preschoolers get overexcited. They might get so into what they’re doing that they take it too far. For example, if a child’s playing fire trucks with friends and starts screeching like a siren, the other kids might walk away.
Self-control is hard for kids this age. But you can help your child get better at it. Try role-playing situations that get your child really excited. Show what it looks like to get too excited, and better ways to act instead.
Help your child avoid triggers.
Kids might not want to play with classmates who have a lot of tantrums. So if you know what sets your child off, do your best to help your child avoid those situations at school.
Maybe your child doesn’t like trying new foods. If so, stick with things your child likes for lunch. (You can work on trying new flavors and textures at home.) If your child is sensitive to clothing tags, cut them out so they don’t bother your child at school.
Give your child ways to problem-solve.
If kids feel left out or hurt, it’s important for them to find ways to problem-solve on their own. Give your child ideas to make this happen.
Say your child loves Legos, but the other kids don’t make room for another kid at the Lego station. Could your child ask the teacher for help? Maybe the teacher could make a sign-up sheet or set up another Lego station. Or maybe your child could play something else until the Legos are free.
Dealing with cliques is hard at all ages, but it can get easier. Kids don’t need to be part of “the cool group” to thrive. But they can build social skills and get better at making friends. Learn more about why some kids struggle with social skills.
Even in preschool, kids can feel left out.
Look for ways to help your child avoid tantrums at school.
Try steering your child toward a group that’s a better fit.
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd has spent 40 years working with children with learning and thinking differences in the classroom and as an administrator.