Helping your child develop healthy social skills early on is an essential aspect of being a parent. As your sweet infant starts to develop their own personality you will learn more about how they navigate situations and respond to other children. In these times, encouraging and understanding how to best aid them in the process can mitigate potential issues when they are sent off to daycare or school. At Yellow Brick Road, our passion is to help your children grow in their own unique individuality alongside others. For this reason, let’s take a look at some of the things to do to help your little one socially.
As we said before, each child is different and will exude aspects of their personality that you may not understand at first. Additionally, during the toddler years, children will often still play by themselves even if they are adjacent to another child. Don’t fret! There are a handful of different ways that children participate in situations. If you notice your child would rather stand off to the side while others engage with toys on the floor, it’s possible his choice of participating is watching his peers play.
However, if your child is interacting, prepare to give ample amounts of grace when he decides the toy he’s playing with is only his. Toddlers do not understand the concept of being selfless and cooperative in their interactions. As a result, the interactions you see are likely to include more conflict than sweet exchanges and sharing. As the parent, stepping in during this time is a necessity. Because most of the behavior toddlers have is mimicking what they’ve learned up until that point, stepping in and showing them what sharing is will be the best way to set an example of how they should play with others. Often times, a child won’t develop an interaction based play style until about age three. Even after learning a few social skills, they will still have more of a loose interaction, though it’s likely they will start to develop specific friends.
Toddlers learn best through demonstration teaching. As we said above, the activity that they have early on is learned from what they’ve watched. This means your child is watching you and will mimic your interactions. Whether that makes you excited or nervous, it’s crucial that you continue to interact with him during his social interactions to help guide him in the situation. Rather than sending him off to play with his friend(s), sit down with them and show him how to share, build together, and take turns. You may be surprised at how quickly he will pick up on the social cues.
If you have set up a playdate for your child to have with a neighbor, take the time to set up a few different areas with toys for them. After a time of playing together, encourage them to be spaced apart to play. Allowing your child to have time to interact with another child as well as having time to himself will help with balance. Once one of the children is finished playing with a toy and puts it down, offer it to the other. This will demonstrate to them that once they are finished with a toy, they take turns and offer it to the other.
Inevitably, arguments will arise with your child when he plays with others. Teaching him to navigate healthy social responses in conflict is absolutely critical. In the event of one getting hit, ignored, or called a name, allow your child to tell you the situation and help them approach the other child. Encourage him to defend himself, first and foremost, by verbally communicating his feelings to the other child. This practice will help your child develop respect for himself in a healthy way that allows him to be honest as well. When they go to approach the other child, remind him to be polite and use words like please, thank you, and in the event that your child was the one who caused the problem, I’m sorry will do wonders. Demonstrating that he must take responsibility for his actions will go a long way in social development, especially early on.
Small Steps, Big Picture
Regardless of the age of your child, it’s never too early to encourage him in his social interaction. Equally as important, avoid putting your child into a room full of other children for an entire day as an introduction to playing with others. Think simple and small to start off, like planning a playdate with the neighbor, as we stated earlier. This will help the child ease into interactions and develop themselves. Other places you could try could be a small group of mothers who get together each week, or a local organization that provides child activities.
Starting in your home is always a wise option. Because your child will still be heavily dependent on you, having a familiar atmosphere with you close by allows them to feel secure and can help them navigate new interactions. If your child is the one that still prefers to watch, allow him to watch other children interact when the opportunity presents itself. As previously stated, demonstration teaching is the best way toddlers learn. Don’t put a time frame on his development, as he may take longer than you think to want to interact. Either way, supporting him in his social interactions and interacting with him during them will assure him that he is not alone.
Cater to the Individual Nature
We will say it one last time, each child is different, and develops differently. Many parents are surprised if their child does not reflect their personality. It’s important to give your child the freedom to learn for himself and make choices, even if that choice is opposite of what you’re familiar with. Sometimes a child simply needs to develop his confidence before he wants to enter a daycare atmosphere. In this case, try to provide that for him until he is ready. Helping him construct these social skill “building blocks” will set a healthy foundation for him to grow and learn from. The more intentional you are in encouraging his individual development, the better off he will be long term.
Yellow Brick Road is an early childhood development center dedicated to providing a safe place to explore, learn, and grow. Our qualified and experienced team is here to serve and engage with your child as they grow into their individuality. Operating for over ten years, our staff is compassionate, intelligent, and loving in understanding all personality types of children. We believe in guiding each child to grow in their confidence as well as their social skills. Visit our website today! We offer two locations available for enrollment, and we can’t wait to meet you and your little one.