Your toddler who is rather shy or one who is already the life of any gathering. No matter where your child falls on this spectrum, he or she will benefit from age-appropriate opportunities to socialize. Socialization, in fact, is an important part of your child’s development overall — with social milestones helping your child to “manage personal feelings, understand others' feelings and needs, and interact in a respectful and acceptable way.” Read on to learn how socialization benefits toddlers.
Parents.com provides information about milestones to expect when your child turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. At age 1, for example, your child will likely begin to engage with basic communication (often pointing and making sounds to express himself or herself), recognize familiar people and interact more openly with you.
By age 2, your child will probably still want to engage more with you than others, but will probably also begin participating in parallel play. This means your child will start to play while being side by side with someone else, rather than interactively playing with the other person. You may start to hear your child insist that a toy is his or her — so now is the time to step up the process of role modeling how to share. He or she may want to engage with more people now, but may still be slow to feel comfortable with someone not seen very often.
By age 3, your child may start to seek out other people to play with, but not know how to share with them or take turns. You’ll probably notice how play consists of pretending, dressing up and otherwise being creative. Now is a good time to guide your child through understanding emotions, so point out different feelings being experienced by characters in books and television shows.
By age 4, your child will probably enjoy playing in a group, especially with people his or her own age. This is why many children begin to play on a sports team at this age, but it makes sense to choose teams that aren’t overly restrictive with rules. Children typically do better with sharing by this age, and of being cooperative, physically affectionate — and more independent.
Choosing Activities to Help Your Toddler Socialize
Many toddlers enjoy art classes or music classes or tumbling classes, and WhatToExpect.com provides guidance on how to choose the right programs for your child. First, pick fun activities. “An art teacher, for example, should embrace your child’s messy creativity, not try to teach him the one and only correct way to hold a paintbrush.” It’s important not to force your child to join in, although “gentle, friendly coaxing is okay . . . often necessary for newbies.”
Spending time with other toddlers is a key benefit for your child, so make sure the class truly focuses on toddlers, rather than having a “roomful of looming kindergarteners.” Also make sure that safety is carefully considered, and the “equipment, supplies, and instruction are all scaled to your child’s developmental level.”
If your child doesn’t seem ready for these activities yet, don’t worry. And, no matter how much your child does enjoy them, don’t overschedule him or her.
Horizon Educational Centers’ Toddler Care Program
We know how socialization benefits toddlers so we provide numerous social and educational activities for toddlers ages 18 months through 36 months, ones that focus on learning and development. To aid in social and emotional development, we offer child-centered activities provided by nurturing quality staff in a safe environment.