Making first friends
Forging those early relationships with her peers is a lot more work for your tot than you think.

We’ve probably all experienced at least one difficult situation at our toddler’s first few playgroups – we go expecting to be able to sit back and relax (finally) and watch our little ones play happily with other children their age. However, this is not often the case and mothers often feel embarrassed as their toddlers either cling to them or ignore all the other children in the playgroup completely.

Playing, but not together

While somewhat embarrassing, this is actually quite normal. Remember that each child’s body and mind develops at a different rate, and your child’s social and emotional development is no different.

Toddlers aged one to two interact with other toddlers in what is called “parallel play”. This means that you may see your toddler having no interaction with other children, but rather playing totally separately from them. This is a normal stage of her social development and your child may need more time before she starts interacting more with other children.

Give it back!

The most difficult part for most parents to watch is when their toddler starts interacting with other children in an aggressive or rude manner. Many children will go up to another child and grab what they are playing with, or pinch them or push them to get what they want.

As a mother you immediately want to jump up and tell your child that that is inappropriate and to give the toy back.

But this behaviour shows you that your toddler actually wants to interact with another child or join in on the activity but doesn’t really know the finer points of social interaction just yet.

This behaviour can occur for a long time as it takes children a long time to learn how they can assert themselves without being seen as being aggressive.

It’s important to talk to your child and teach her the correct ways of approaching other children without it sounding like you are disappointed in her. You can suggest that your child and the other child create something together with the toy instead of them playing on their own or fighting over it.

Why making friends is vital for your child

It’s important for children to learn how to interact with other children as those fundamental skills of social interaction are vital for your child’s development.

Children that have friends often have a greater sense of wellbeing, higher self-esteem and fewer social problems as they grow up than young children who shun friendships. Socialising involves the emotional development of your child where she learns how to manage her emotions as well as understanding how other people feel and the best ways to respond to these different emotional states.

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