Little Social Bugs

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Growing a little social bug starts early! As your baby grows, it's important to encourage socializing with others to further develop his social skills.

Encourage Your Toddler to Interact With Friends

As your baby develops into an adventurous toddler, his interaction with others will grow. It’s important to encourage contact with others to help him develop social skills. Don’t forget, he’s also watching you! How you interact with others will show him how to be. So, if you’re a good friend to others and offer friendly social interactions with others your age, he’s learning that it’s OK to do the same. Young kids may not have the words to say, but they sure do love playing. You may not realize it at first, but pretend play is all around your little guy. He’ll enjoy copying the things you do and pretend that he’s big as time moves on.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tells parents that given the chance, developing babes will interact with playmates, assigning different roles to each other and leading into a very elaborate game of pretend play. “This type of play helps them develop important social skills, such as taking turns, paying attention, communicating (through actions and expressions as well as words), and responding to each others actions,” an AAP article says.

There will also be moments when your little one turns shy. A likely scenario: He’s just been introduced to another child his age and is suddenly quiet and unsure of what to do. This could be a prime moment for you to jump in and help him along. Show him how to interact with the other child. Spark up a conversation of sorts with the other child and then include your child in the conversation.

“I encourage my toddler to try to say ‘Hi’ (but usually she doesn’t because she’s quiet),” says local mom Alison Windsor Owen, “and then I try to point out something cool about the other kid (ex. ‘Hey, John has a Ninja Turtle T-shirt like your brother!’). Then the rest I let happen organically. It’s developmentally appropriate for toddlers to play side by side without much interaction and that is completely normal and healthy. I’ll intervene if there’s a conflict (sharing) or give some brief praise if I see one of them do something nice to the other one.”

It’s great to see young kids approach others their age and try to start the conversation themselves. Encourage them. Help them if they need it. Once you’ve helped your child how to get the ball rolling with others his age, he’ll be your little social bug before you know it.

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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