With a toddler, sometimes social situations can be embarrassing and even anxiety ridden. HEALTH learns how to build up your toddler’s social skills to enhance child development.
According to Carmen Benton, a Life Works Parenting Educator, in order for us to realize just how ‘primitive’ our young children’s social interactions are we need to understand something about child development and age appropriateness. “Children, for example, do not realize that there are people other than themselves in the world until they are between ages 14 and 24 months,” she says, therefore a baby looking into a mirror does not realize they are looking at themselves and instead sees a stranger looking back at them.
The Parents Role
Parents are a child’s most important teacher and during early development, parents lay the foundation for early social skills development. And building your toddlers social skills from an early age enables them to have the right foundation to be socially successful. Basic play skills such as turn taking, joint attention and sharing are developed with songs, games, storytelling and playful interactions with carers and siblings and in fact, it is these skills which form the basic building blocks for later social skill development.
The ability to share, tells Benton, begins around ages of three to four. “Children under this age are too young to share and need to be taught how,” she says and there are normal steps in learning to share such as possessiveness and ownership which are part of your child’s natural development.
These ‘mistakes’ are the times where you can teach skills in a meaningful way. “A toddler needs a training program that is both kind and firm, where they are taught appropriate behavior rather than being punished for inappropriate behavior,” she explains.
Children are learning to share at this age and need guidance and teaching, and when a child is having problems sharing try the following solutions:
- Finding another toy they can offer a friend.
- Finding something else they can do while they wait for their turn.
- Suggesting and demonstrating ways they can play with the toy together.
- Other skills which can be taught over time include teaching the process of sharing by kindly and firmly removing the item they wanted, offer comfort yet allow them their frustration, then offer empathy.
- Also model sharing by playing trading games with your child or play games where their dolls have to share with each other.