A Parent’s Guide to Toddler Socialization Development
Throughout the first 12 months, you may have primarily noticed all the physical milestones your infant reached, such as sitting and crawling. From 12-36 months is a time of immense cognitive, emotional, and social development for toddlers. Every parent wants their child to be accepted by her peers and see her forming happy, positive relationships with other children. Social skills, in truth, are a conglomeration of good and bad experiences. Through each, a child learns how to behave with others.
Forming a foundation: 12-24 months
A toddler is still learning to communicate with others, and since she may not be able to express herself with words, she will use other methods to get her point across, such as biting, pulling hair, kicking, and hitting. Tantrums are very common, and mostly stem from the inability to communicate adequately. When teaching your little one appropriate behavior, give excessive praise for good conduct and stay calm when she acts out. Toddlers are infamous for their broad range of emotions that can change in the blink of an eye. Because of this, your child is not ready to spend a lengthy amount time alone with a friend, so supervised play is best. Though she may seem interested in other children her age, she will likely engage in parallel play – sitting together but playing separately.
Playmates and playdates: 24-36 months
Around the age of 2 years old is when most toddlers begin to show interest in playing with other children, but at this age, don’t expect a lot of sharing or turn-taking. This is a time when your little one is beginning to pick up on social cues and manners, such as saying “hello” and “thank you”. Many children this age are ready to play with a friend, even if it’s only for a short period of time. When choosing a playmate and scheduling a playdate, involve the friend’s caregiver and be available in case your child needs to come home early. If playing at your own home, stay within earshot so you can respond quickly if the situation turns sour.
Your child may also begin to enjoy playing in small groups. Though daycare or early preschool programs provide plenty of socialization for toddlers, there are other ways to provide opportunities to practice social skills. Try guiding your toddler to speak with other children at a park or playground. Check around in your community for groups intended for toddlers, such as toddler time at the local library or community center. You could also organize a play group with other kids from your neighborhood and rotate homes each week. It’s important to give your toddler plenty of opportunities to learn how to play with other toddlers, even if you worry that she does not behave.
Modeling good behavior
Toddlers are excellent observers. Since you, as caregiver, have formed the deepest bond with your child, being a good example in how you treat others is the best way to teach your toddler how to interact with people. As you model empathy and kindness, it’s feasible your toddler will grow to do the same. If you treat her with respect, she will eventually learn to show respect as well. Children do as we do, not as we say.
If you suspect there may be a problem with your child’s social development – such as constant aggression or extreme timidity – speak with her pediatrician. Raising a toddler is so different from the infant stage, but a period of beautiful curiosity and growth. Toddlers are inclined to enjoy other people and children, and their enthusiasm and energy for life is precious to behold – even if their social skills are lacking. Just keep practicing and
What activities have helped your toddler socialize? Please share with us below!