Parent often have concerns about their toddlers socialising or rather not socialising with other toddlers. Most concerns come from parents with toddlers between 18 months and three years of age. Is it normal for them not to play with each other and to be constantly trying to take away everything the other child has? Yes very much so!
Socialising doesn’t come easily to most toddlers and sometimes we wonder if it’s going to happen at all. When grouping a bunch of toddlers of a similar age together, one is more likely to see a free for all rather than the lovely interaction we might be expecting.
This typical behaviour is only natural. Toddlers are the centre of their own universe. They view other toddlers as objects to be prodded and poked. Objects that move and make a noise but that are holding on to the toy that they would like. They sometimes get very puzzled when a fellow object pushes back, making them difficult to interact with.
How do we help them overcome this? Exposure, as with most developmental and learning experiences is what is recommended. Even with toddlers that attend a regular group, social etiquette takes time to develop. There is likely to be lots of tears and struggles within the group before they learn to play together.
Children that are exposed to social activities that are a mix of mommy led and time for self exploring of the other “objects”, learn faster on how to master this complex thing called socialising. Being civilized beings is not inherited like blue eyes or brown hair. Some toddlers are more open to it than others but it does not mean that your shy reserved toddler is going to be socially awkward for the rest of his life.
It was widely accepted that toddlers will only start to play with each other by age three. Researchers are starting to question this, as toddlers that have been exposed to early groups start making friends from as young as a year and will start to play with the other children from around two. Younger siblings seem to master this skill earlier as well. Socialising within the family teaches you to play nicely.
Don’t be concerned, it is normal and will keep improving with the right guidance from everyone around them.
Written by Liz Victor – late CEO of Toptots Early Learning SA