While Baby may have started having playdates as an infant, at this stage of toddlerhood, he is really starting to enjoy and benefit from socialization. While he used to play beside other children, this year, you’ll start to notice him 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 him 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 him by role-playing at home. You can play the part of the person he is about to meet, and preface the situation so he 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 his apprehension, it’s important to be sensitive to Baby’s feelings. Being dismissive when he is feeling shy will only make him more uneasy. Remember all children are different, and he may need a bit more handholding when it comes to getting acclimated.
- Encourage expected behavior: Practice social skills regularly, and praise Baby when he does the right thing. Encouraging him to use greetings and farewells, as well as to make eye contact with those around him, are ways to get him more comfortable with engaging others, and to get him started responding to social cues.
- Find kindred spirits: If you’re finding that Baby is shy in a new environment, like when he’s at school or in a group activity, you can help build his 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 him come out of his shell, if he makes a new friend.
- Be patient: As you work with Baby to help him relate to his 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, he’s going to have plenty of chances to get it right, and he’s got you on his side, too!