While Baby may have started having playdates as an infant, at this stage of toddlerhood, they are really starting to enjoy and benefit from socialization. While they used to play beside other children, this year, you’ll start to notice them becoming more interested in what other kids are doing, copying their actions, and eventually even interacting with them.
Some toddlers are social butterflies, while others might need a little extra encouragement when it comes to meeting unfamiliar people or exploring new situations. If Baby falls in the second category, fear not – there are a number of ways you can help them become more comfortable and confident in social situations. Here are some tips for preparing Baby for new social environments, and for making new friends.
- Role-play: Before introducing Baby to a new environment or to new people, prepare them by role-playing at home. You can play the part of the person they are about to meet, and preface the situation so they can become more comfortable beforehand. This way, there will be no surprises.
- Be sensitive: Even if you’re very outgoing yourself, or cannot understand the source of their apprehension, it’s important to be sensitive to Baby’s feelings. Being dismissive when they are feeling shy will only make them more uneasy. Remember all children are different, and they may need a bit more handholding when it comes to getting acclimated.
- Encourage expected behavior: Practice social skills regularly, and praise Baby when they do the right thing. Encouraging them to use greetings and farewells, as well as to make eye contact with those around them, are ways to get them more comfortable with engaging others, and to get them started responding to social cues.
- Find kindred spirits: If you’re finding that Baby is shy in a new environment, like when they're at school or in a group activity, you can help build their sense of comfort by seeking out fellow reserved peers and strike up a conversation with their parents. Getting that child and Baby together could mean making a connection, which could help them come out of their shell, if they make a new friend.
- Be patient: As you work with Baby to help them relate to their peers, remember that it may take some time. Some toddlers are naturally more cautious, and prefer to observe new people and environments before jumping in socially. With lots of preparation, and praise of good social behavior, Baby will learn what to expect, and will become more confident, too!
Social skills don’t develop on their own – they take practice! Lucky for Baby, they're going to have plenty of chances to get it right, and they're got you on their side, too!