As your baby gets older and toddles their way into toddlerhood it becomes more important that they have opportunities to interact with children the same age. They have to have experiences on which to build their social learning upon in order for social skills to develop. Children learn from their environment so the best things you can do for their social development is allow them to thrive, learn and grow around other children.
Confidence grows as your toddler socialises
When you allow children to play alongside others their age they grow in confidence which is a major building block to success in all areas of life. When a person lacks in confidence they limit their own learning, development and opportunities. A child who is nurtured to be confident will also experience less anxiety. This becomes particularly relevant as your child gets old enough to be left at pre-school or another childcare facility. Anxious children find these occasions especially difficult.
Our brains are designed to be social; human beings are companionable animals and can naturally learn the skills required to build successful relationships. They do though need experience so that they can hone and develop these skills. The more opportunities they get to practice the better they will become and the more able they will be to form meaningful relationships.
These early experiences really matter
Don’t panic though, you don’t have to follow any big socialising textbook, as long as you allow your toddler to experience social interaction they will be fine. All you have to do is take your toddler to venues where they can interact.
It is easy to think that all toddlers are unsociable. After all they don’t seem to do a lot of playing together it seems more like they play alongside each other. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important though. Some parents avoid toddler interactions because they find it worrying when they see young children physically lashing out at each other. The truth is that toddlers will argue and sometimes they will push, snatch or even bite in frustration but it is all completely normal and part of their learning process. They have a lot of social rules to learn and big emotions to deal with at the same time. Use these opportunities to help your children understand that there is a right a wrong way to deal with frustration, as long as they are well supervised it won’t get out of hand. Always try to model the behaviour you would like them to emulate.
What can you expect from a toddler when socialising?
12 – 18 months
Don’t worry if your child just wants to cling to you for dear life at this stage. There is still value in taking them to a place where they have the choice to interact with others and can see other children doing it. If you feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the clinginess remind yourself that it won’t last forever, you will get your hip back and your child will begin to socialise again, when they are ready.
They will be particularly interested in independent play at this point and will have no concept of sharing. One of the common issues that toddlers have is the “mine syndrome.” Everything a child can see belongs to them, whether it actually does or not is irrelevant. These opportunities are perfect for parents to teach the virtues of turn taking and patience. It will take time and persistence and most importantly the permission to learn at their pace.
18 - 24 months +
This is the time that you will probably start to see evidence of the toddler tantrum. There are many reasons why a toddler will tantrum when socialising, it could be over a toy they want to play with or that their little friend got the coloured cup they had wanted. It really could be anything!
Many of the frustrations young children will feel relates to their language development. They understand a lot more than they can actually communicate. One way to help support them in this process is to teach them baby sign language which will give them the tools to communicate their needs more effectively to you before they have mastered the language.
Whether you do baby sign or not, over this period of time they will begin to form words. It is a slow process though and tantrums are just part of the journey for most children and their parents.
How can Tots Play help my toddler develop their social skills?
Our Social Tots classes, aimed at older babies and toddlers, are perfect for helping your little one begin to develop those social skills (the clue's in the name!) with a range of play experiences that they can enjoy alongside other children of a similar age. The routine and familiarity of attending regular classes and seeing many of the same faces each week, can help your toddler feel more secure to engage with those you meet and the play activities on offer.
The mix of both structured and free play activities at these sessions will also help build the confidence your Tot needs to start to explore their environment more independently, but at a pace they are ready for, and with you there to support and encourage them at each step. Classes also include simple sign language to boost those communication skills and cut down on tantrums!
At Tots Play we are committed to support you to have fun with your little one while supporting their development in lots of different ways, so why not come and try out at class with us soon? You can find details of your nearest classes HERE. Classes for both younger babies and older toddlers are also available.
You can also find a range of play resources in our online store, and can download a FREE guide with lots of ideas to try at home HERE.
We know that every day is a new adventure with your toddler, so whatever you are up to today, happy playing!
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