Every single day, Baby interacts more and more with the situations and people around them. This might lead you to wonder whether or not Baby should be socializing more with other toddlers. After all, it’s a big world out there, school isn’t that far off in the distance, and social skills are important. Right?
Well, sort of. Socialization can be helpful at this age, but it’s not entirely critical (or even possible) right now. Here are some reasons why.
Toddler play is fairly independent
Different kinds of play require different kinds of developmental ability, and while eight-year-olds can play collaborative games like hide and seek or tag, two-year-olds don’t have that skill just yet. They’re more likely to play on their own, side-by-side with other children, in what is referred to as parallel play. Toddlers also don’t grasp the concept of sharing. It takes some time and practice for them to get to the point where they understand the concept of ownership.
Neither of these things mean that Baby won’t benefit from being in an environment with other toddlers. But you do want to be realistic about what kind of socialization Baby needs, and is capable of, at this age.
Baby probably does get a good deal of socialization already.
Just because Baby doesn’t have a toddler bestie doesn’t mean that they isn&;t pretty socially fulfilled already. Consider the adults and young adults that Baby sees each day, like the person behind the grocery counter or your friend who drops by the house to catch up. Chances are pretty good that Baby is getting a lot of chances to be around people in a variety of different settings.
Socialization isn’t all or nothing, either. Even the quick moments where Baby gets to interact with someone else can be learning experiences that build on Baby‘s confidence and curiosity.
You need to make some parent friends!
Playdates aren’t just for kids. When it comes to toddlers, playdates often serve as opportunities for parents to get to know each other and form relationships. They can rely on these friendships when the kids are more mature and ready to socialize and play together. Now is a good time to start thinking about ways to meet other parents so that you’ll have a network of support as Baby heads into their later toddler years.
Where to start?
Keeping these things in mind, you can still help Baby socialize with other toddlers.
- Playtime: The best kind of environment for this is one where the children can play side-by-side together, with enough toys to go around so that there aren’t squabbles about whose toy is whose. If the toddlers engage in parallel play, don’t dismiss it as being a waste of time; they’re getting something out of it, even if you can’t figure out what that something is.
- Toddler classes or groups: Find classes or groups where you and Baby are around other parents and their toddlers, but not necessarily always engaged with them directly. This is another good way to meet other parents.
- Out and about: When the two of you are out in public or with friends or family, gently encourage Baby to interact with the people around you, like saying hi or waving. Explain what they’re doing to Baby and ask questions or tell stories so that they get engaged and starts thinking about the world around them.
One of the most amazing things about being a parent is that as Baby matures, you get to watch the world literally expand before their eyes. While Baby is this age, socialization can be beneficial, but modeling correct social behavior with other adults, encouraging Baby‘s language and cognitive development, and providing Baby with the love, care, and support that they need while they grow can be even more important.
- “Learning, Play, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Jan 2015. Available at http://m.kidshealth.org/en/parents/learn12yr.html.
- “Toddlers: Social, Solitary, and Parallel Play.” AhaParenting. Dr Laura Markham, 2017. Available at http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/toddlers-social-solitary-and-parallel-play.
- Celia A Brownell, et al. “To share or not to share: When do toddlers respond to another’s needs?” Infancy. 14(1): 117–130. Web. Jan 2009.
- Felix Warneken, Michael Tomasello. “Parental Presence and Encouragement Do Not Influence Helping in Young Children.” Infancy. Web. Mar 2012.