The toddler stage is a whirlwind of milestones and challenges. Your little one is now starting to develop their own unique personality and they often aren’t afraid to show it! It’s a vital time in your child’s life, as it’s where they start to learn more about the world around them and they develop essential skills that will aid in their development.
One of the most influential skills they’re going to develop at this time is how to socialize with others. Not only are they going to test your authoritative boundaries, but they’re also going to start interacting more with their peers.
This isn’t always a straightforward process. Just like adults, some toddlers are much more sociable than others. Not every child is going to develop social skills at the same speed and they may need a little encouragement. If your little one is struggling or you’re concerned about their socializing skills, below you’ll discover some of the best tips that can help.
1. Increase Socialization Gradually
Perhaps the worst thing you can do if your toddler is shying away from social interactions is to push them into frequent, large social settings. Not only won’t this help their socialization skills, but it’s likely to make them worse.
Taking baby steps and introducing them into new social situations gradually will be much easier for them to handle. Don’t just turn up to a toddler play group for example, and expect your little one to dive straight in. Instead, start with smaller play dates and attend small local groups. Play dates at home are especially helpful as you’ll still be around if needed and your little one will be in a familiar setting.
2. Allow Them To Simply Observe Other Children
While it’s true toddlers love nothing more than to take a hands-on approach to most things, observation is just as important in terms of their development. Before encouraging your toddler to partake in social situations, it’s a great tip to simply let them observe other children at play.
By watching other toddlers interacting with each other, your child will see for themselves exactly what they can expect. You can do this practically anywhere you go such as the park or even just on your way to the local grocery store.
3. Lead By Example
Your toddler looks to you for guidance on how to behave. Therefore, if they never witness you greeting complete strangers, why should they be expected to do the same? Making an effort and talking to people you don’t know, shows your little one it’s perfectly normal to chat to other children they have never met before. It can also teach them how to approach someone new.
4. Turn Socializing Into A Game
Your toddler is much more likely to engage in social situations if it’s perceived as a fun, enjoyable activity. In the early toddler years, you can start this by creating a “greeting game”. Following on from the tip above, you can say to your toddler “when we leave home, we’re going to greet five different people”, then when you get back you can talk about the greetings and individual encounters.
During the later toddler years, you can expand a little and use role playing as a way to build up their social skills. It’s a great idea to use teddies or figures to represent other children. Then practice basic socialization skills such as greetings and behaviors.
5. Never Force Your Toddler To Socialize
If you’re worried about your toddler’s social skills, it’s common to want to step in and take a more forceful approach. We’re often taught as adults, to force ourselves into situations we feel uncomfortable in. They say it’s the best way to face our fears. However, your toddler doesn’t have the same emotional development skills as you do, so forcing them into doing something they don’t feel comfortable doing is only going to make matters worse.
If you make a big deal out of socializing with others, they will start to dread the experience and try to avoid it. So, as tempting as it might be, refrain from pushing them too hard to participate.
6. Keep Socialization Sessions Short
Toddlers don’t have the longest attention spans and they tend to get bored quite quickly. You already know that when your toddler gets bored, they get disruptive! What starts out as a great, positive socialization session, could quickly turn into a nightmare one if it runs over a little too long. So, pay attention to your toddler and know when they’ve had enough.
Keeping the sessions short ensures your little one only remembers positive memories of the play dates. This means they’ll start to look forward to the next one!
7. Handle Inappropriate Behavior Quickly
There’s bound to be at least one occasion your toddler does something they shouldn’t. For example, many toddlers go through a biting and hitting phase. They get frustrated quickly, so when they’re playing with another toddler, it may not be long before pushing, hitting or shouting ensues. So how do you handle this? Quickly, firmly and calmly, without giving them a lecture.
8. Praise Them For Good Social Skills They Present
It’s really helpful to praise your toddler when they do something right. For example, whenever they do something polite or thoughtful, praise them. This teaches them that their social skills are valued and acting nicely to others results in praise.
It’s not always easy to know how to handle social situations with your toddler, but the above tips will definitely help you to work on and improve their social skills. Above all else it’s important to be patient and remember that each child develops at a slightly different pace.
Did you have issues when trying to socialize your little one? Let us know how you handled it and any useful tips you might have that we haven’t covered!