At what age should your child begin interacting with peers and other adults? Typically, toddlers are ready to start learning social skills crucial to their development.
Importance of Social Interaction in Early Childhood
Children are not born with an understanding of the world; they must develop a sense of community, language, affection, and self-esteem through social interactions. A child’s emotional development is often the direct result of the quality of relationships with adults and peers.
By the time a child is five years old, they will often possess the ability to express, regulate, and experience emotions in socially and culturally acceptable ways. They will know how to navigate their home and school environments and understand complex family, friendship, culture, and community concepts.
However, the level of comprehension a child has is directly correlated to the exposure to healthy and productive social interactions. A child must participate in society to understand it. A parent’s restraint and overprotection often limit a sheltered child. While no one is advocating leaving your child to navigate the world alone, if you want to encourage positive growth and healthy development, a child needs to interact with their environment, elders, and peers.
Teaching Your Toddler Social Skills
With so much hypothetical weight on developing social skills, teaching those skills can seem overwhelming to some parents. After all, many adults might believe they lack adequate social skills in their personal and professional lives. However, the complexities of adult relationships are entirely the same as those of a child’s relationship with their peers; although, you can see similarities in the more simplified expectations of childhood socialization. The primary skills your child will need to learn include:
- Following directions
- Maintaining eye contact
- Using manners
- Respecting personal boundaries
The best way to teach your children is by example. However, there are specific ways to teach each skill, including:
- Ask questions about a story you read them (Listening)
- Praise them for listening (Following directions)
- Praise them for allowing other people to use their toys (Sharing)
- Make a meal as a family (Cooperating)
- Demonstrate how to correctly pay attention when someone is talking (Eye contact)
- Always use your manners by saying “please,” and “thank you”
- Demonstrate appropriate social distancing (Personal boundaries)
Ways To Improve Toddler Social Skills
Socializing can begin at a very early age. A toddler begins to speak and get around at 12 months; they can learn a tremendous amount from family interactions between one and three years. There are several ways to improve a toddler’s social skills, including play.
Gameplay, storytelling, singing, and much more encompass socialization aspects, including sharing, cooperating, listening, etc. While teaching kids how to socialize, the main focus areas are empathy, emotion, and communication. Some examples of activities you can use to teach your child include:
- Creating visuals
- Story-sharing while encouraging dialogue
- Games that require turn-taking
- Group play
What To Do if Toddler Isn’t Socializing With Others
While some children are naturally friendly, others struggle with interactions. People typically refer to these children as shy, which can be perceived as a negative term by even young children. If you want to help your child socialize, there are several things you can do, including:
- Empathize with their experience
- Ask questions
- Prepare for social events
- Help them make introductions and friends
If you give it your best shot and your child is still not socializing, you might want to talk with a child psychologist. Socialization is crucial to developing healthy relationships and self-confidence.
A child needs to develop social skills to become a productive member of society. As a parent, you only want what’s best for your child, ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing.