Baby has spent so much time not being ready to play with other children, and getting almost all the social interaction they&;s needed from within your family, but at this point, they're reaching the age where a little extra socialization, and especially social interaction with other toddlers, could be fun, interesting, and helpful for them.
If Baby goes to a nursery school or daycare with other children, they may be getting all the socializing they need already, but if they are at home with a caregiver, or in individual care, this can be a great time to start making regular playdates a little bit more of a priority than before.
Still, most toddlers won’t be ready for what’s called “cooperative play” yet, which is what many adults mean when they talk about children playing together. In fact, many toddlers won’t start to get the hang of real cooperative play until they’re around four or even five. In the meantime, toddlers playing together may play near each other, copy each other, share materials, or even take turns with some toys.
If Baby ends up playing with older kids, on the other hand, the picture might look a little different. Toddlers generally love to imitate older children and can learn a lot by watching them. This means that, on play dates with older children, you may find Baby following their slightly-less-little friend’s lead. It also means that, if Baby has a slightly older friend, cousin, or sibling who they want to be just like, you can encourage any skills or habits you’re hoping they will pick up – whether that’s using the potty, trying new foods, or using silverware – by giving them the chance to see their friend doing those things.
Of course, this can also go the other way – bigger kids can sometimes help toddlers learn certain words that many parents hope they won’t pick up. If Baby is friends with an older child, or even a child their own age with a big personality, you may find yourself needing to have the “That might be okay in so-and-so’s house, but it isn’t okay in ours” conversation.
Making friends for the first time is an adventure for Baby, but it’ll also be an adventure for you. Have fun!
Takes turns in games: Whether it’s a toddler-friendly board game, a ball-pass game at nursery school, or waiting until the toddler who was there ahead of them on the slide takes a turn before sliding down, Baby is getting better at learning the rules of the game – both the literal game they're playing and the rules of social interaction and being polite. They may slip up now and then, but once they start to understand what’s expected of them enough to know that they should be taking turns, encouraging them to play nicely should start to go more smoothly.
Turns a door handle: It’s a different kind of “turning,” and they can do it based on a different kind of skill – their coordination – and a different kind of growth – their height. It’s going to take them places, too – literal places, unless you get really careful about locking doors and setting boundaries.
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