Your child's little social circle is an important part of his life. Did you know that children who socialize successfully perform better in school than those who don't? That's because toddlers who build social skills learn vital socioemotional values such as how to recognize and deal with their emotions, how to recognize emotions in others, how to be empathetic and how to relate to others in a positive way. Put simply, your tyke learns how to get along well with others when he socializes as a toddler.
You Are Your Baby's First Buddy
Guess who your child got his first taste of socialization from? You! Learning how to interact with others starts within the safe and loving walls of your little one's home. Your touch taught him comfort, your voice taught him language and your laughter taught him response. He's learned facial expressions by watching your antics and he's learned his actions can have an effect on other people. That's why he delights in tipping his cereal over onto the floor -- to see what happens. He'll take everything he's learned from you and apply it to his social life outside the home.
12 to 24 Months
As your baby becomes a crawler and then a walker, officially kicking off the toddler years, he grows interested in other children. During the first two years, he'll be more interested in watching them than playing with them. You'll notice your little one doing something called parallel play, according to the website Baby Center. This means he'll play shoulder-to-shoulder with another toddler without actually engaging that child in play. Any interaction will likely -- and unfortunately -- be in the form of tug-of-war over a toy or game. Toddlers haven't learned that other people's feelings are important yet, but don't worry, that time is coming.
36 to 60 Months
As your toddler matures, he'll become more interested in involving other children in his playtime. You can encourage this by scheduling play times with one or two other children his age. Keep the numbers low to avoid frustrations, recommends the Child Development Institute, and end the play time as soon as you notice any of the children tiring out or becoming bored. Through years four and five your little one will start to play more nicely with others as he recognizes that other people have feelings that should be respected. At years of age, group play is going to go more smoothly.
School-age children are gradually learning the emotional and social maturity and stability to create lasting friendships with other children, even adults, according to a web page on the University of Alabama website. Having close, healthy relationships promotes solid self-esteem, better choice-making and teaches children how to solve problems and work well with one another. This is the time to help your child choose his friends wisely. Teach him, also, how to treat those friends well so he can keep them for many years to come.
- Southeastern Child Care Resource and Referral: Social Behaviors
- Baby Center: Toddler Milestones: Socialization
- Child Development Institute: Helping Your Child With Socialization
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: The 3,4 and 5-Year Old Child: Changes in Social Behavior
- University of Alabama Parent Assistance Line: Your Child's Development
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images