top of page

Recent Posts



What If My Toddler Doesn't Like Joining In?

As a parent you probably choose to take your child to a class like Tots Play so you can not only spend quality time together, have fun and learn new things but also to give your little one the chance to meet and socialise with others their own age (and to get the same benefits for yourself too)!

Some toddlers though just don’t want to join in with class activities. Perhaps you have a child that prefers to sit on the side lines, clinging to you and seemingly frightened to join in and play independently.

It is a common worry that if your child is a little more shy or isn't "joining in" in the way you might expect them to then they are missing out. Of course you want to see your child engaging and enjoying themselves and perhaps are also concerned that if they are not seeming to do that it may also signify potential long term issues with socialising and learning.

Here at Tots Play, we want to reassure you that this response to the class environment is perfectly normal. Every child is unique and will explore the world at their own pace. You can be confident that through being in stimulating environments they are learning and growing and taking things in, even if it isn’t in the way you expect.

Observational Learning

The term observational learning refers to how children of all ages learn by observing the actions and behaviour of others. This includes watching both adults and their peers to ascertain how to act and behave in each individual situation.

The process follows these 4 steps;

1) Attention

For children to learn something through observation, it needs to be interesting enough to be noticed.

2) Retention

When the child observes the actions or behaviour they have the potential to note it and remember it. How quickly they are able to obtain it will depend on how often they see it and how much of an impact this behaviour or action has on them. The more interesting it is, the quicker they will retain it.

3) Reproduction

This stage is when the child copies the behaviour or action they have seen. This could be immediately or after some time observing. The length of time this takes will depend on the activity, the environment and most importantly the individual child themselves. It is also worth noting that the child may choose to reproduce the action in a different environment. So what they might see within a class, they might copy at home when they feel safer to explore. This is perfectly normal and healthy, and something that parents who attend classes report back to us all the time.

After attending a class on a regular basis over a period of time, it may be that they will feel safe to explore in that environment too, and you will see your child start to participate more during class time. This is also something that is very common.

4) Motivation

The child learns from the actions or behaviour they have copied and adapts accordingly as they learn. This is also affected by how people around the child react to their actions; are they rewarded or punished for copying?

This is the same process for every child as they learn and develop by watching others, the speed at which they go through these steps is not important. Some children simply need to pay attention and stay in the retention stage for longer than others and that is OK.

As you can see by the last step, when they do reproduce the action they are looking to those around them to validate if what they are doing is right, this is why paying attention and giving praise is more valuable than trying to push a child to do something they are physically not ready to do.

How to help your child get the most from classes

If you are attending a class such as Tots Play and your little one shows signs of nerves and resistance, just remember the following;

  • They are not missing out. Your child is simply in the attention and retention stage. They are learning through observing and the best thing you can do is be there with them and allow them to observe at their own pace. Praise them when they are ready to join in or reproduce the activity at home.

  • It is no indication of their intelligence or social skills long term. Your child is simply unique and has their own learning style. There is no evidence that children who are resistant to group learning in the formative days achieve any more or less later in their childhood than their peers.

  • You are not doing anything wrong. Just taking your child to a healthy, stimulating environment like Tots Play supports their development and growth, regardless of the level of interaction they choose to make.

  • No-one is judging you or your child. The Tots Play leader and other mums will not be upset, offended or judgemental if your child is reserved. Tots Play provides a supportive and inclusive environment where every unique child is welcomed.

At Tots Play our sessions include a range of activities and move through them at a steady pace so if your little one isn't in the mood for one of the activities that week we are soon onto the next and another opportunity for them to engage and get involved if they would like to. Classes also include a period of free play so each child is are able to explore at their own pace during that time too.

Come and give it a try!

Hopefully you can now see that there are many benefits to be gained from attending classes with your toddler, no matter how or when they choose to participate. So why not come and give Tots Play a try.

At most of our classes a short trial period is available so you can come and get a feel for the sessions and what they have to offer before making a longer commitment.

The Tots Play programme aims to be every class your child needs in one, with activities including music, yoga, massage, sign language, sensory and exploratory play combined together in a relaxed, friendly and child led environment.

Click HERE to learn more about the Tots Play programme, with classes suitable for both babies and toddlers, and HERE to find a class near you. You are sure to find a warm welcome. See you there and happy playing!

Click HERE to Subscribe to our Blog for regular updates and activity ideas.

bottom of page