We all have friends who we love being with and as parents we want our children to have great and lasting friendships. A preschooler is not going to form lasting friendships. Their friends are those they go to school with, or who lives near them etc., Just because those friendships will not be lasting, does not mean that they can spend time alone. Friends are still important for them. Read why.
Friends - Encourage imagination
Preschoolers have vivid imaginations. They pretend things are different from what they are. Cardboard boxes become castles, dolls become fairy princesses with magic wands. Doing it by themselves is great but a friend helps more. When two children get together, their imagination multiplies. Each child brings in new perspectives and thoughts that lets their creativity grow and flower. Even preschoolers who are just sitting next to each other and playing, can trigger each other's imagination.
Hold my hand
Sometimes children can be timid or reticient to do something that is new, like a new activity in the playground. But the presence of a friend, somehow makes these challenges appear much smaller. When one child does it, the other one learns that it is doable and their resistance disappears. While many parents look at this as risky, as one child may lead another to a risky venture, the positives far outweigh any perceived negatives. This group experience also teaches children the importance of a team and how team members can motivate each other.
Teach sharing and compromise
Children do not always share objects easily even when playing with friends. As parents, we tend to focus on the times when our children and their friends argue over a toy or a book, the negatives. But often, they do tend to share and they learn to take turns with the toy or book under argument.
Also, while your child may not realize it, she is also learning to compromise. In a pretend play situation like a doctor and patient. Children will negotiate so that one child is a doctor, while the other has to be a patient who just lies down. A patient can be a boring role, but a required role. Or they may compromise in a different way with both being doctors and using a doll as a patient. Either way, they learn that each has their own desires and that unless they reconcile them, they will not be able to play together.
The power of the many
While preschoolers typically do not form cliques or act as bullies in a traditional sense, some maybe timid while others maybe more assertive. Having friends around helps the timid ones state their complaint loudly, if an assertive kid is taking their turn or grabs a book from them. Similarly, it helps the assertive kid, because his friends may tell him that he should not grab or snatch things from other children. Either way, friends step in and help a child reach socially desired behaviour.
As parents what we need to keep in mind is that it is important even for very young children to have friends, instead of playing by themselves or with you. Yes, they do need to play by themselves. Yes, they do need to play and bond with you. But they also need to play with friends as they get trained for a social world. So do make the effort as parents to help your child interact with friends.