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Helping toddlers make friends

 
Are you worried your toddler isn't making friends? It's perfectly normal. Although some toddlers are naturally confident, most are typically slow to make friends to begin with. Here are some simple suggestions to help those early friendships blossom.
Are you worried your toddler isn't making friends? It's perfectly normal.

Although some toddlers are naturally confident, most are typically slow to make friends to begin with.

Some naturally anxious toddlers will initially resist the idea of making friends and hide or run away when they meet children their age.

Others will be less sure of themselves or have a slower social development, less-advanced motor skills or later language development.

Some toddlers are often just happy to play alone.

Early interactions are the building blocks of later social success, but whatever the case, unless your child is extremely frightened by playing with others or totally withdrawn, you can be assured there’s no real cause for concern.
 

Tips on helping toddlers to make friends

Here are some simple suggestions to help those early friendships blossom:
 
  • Encouraging your child to make friends should begin in small steps. Toddlers have to progress through peripheral play, parallel play and finally cooperative play before they can really make friends.
 
  • This means you need to let your toddler watch interaction from a distance, then slowly move to playing alongside other children, before supporting them in making the step to interact with friends.
 
  • Through making friends, toddlers learn very important values, such as sharing, caring for others, being patient and adapting to different social situations.
 
  • Often toddlers don’t see the need to make friends, as they’re completely content in their parents’ company and with their toys.
 
  • A very first step towards encouraging your little one to make friends is to remove familiar toys briefly or getting them to observe other toddlers at play. Toddlers will usually gravitate towards others who are playing if they don’t have their favourite toys to hand.
 
  • When it comes to making friends, your toddler may need lots of praise and encouragement, such as for being nice to other children, sharing well or being patient.
   
  • In the early days perhaps go along to a playgroup or similar activity group, ideally in the morning when your little one is less likely to be tired so that they can learn to interact with others their own age.
 
  • Another simple step towards starting friendships is arranging playdates and having other parents visit with similar-aged toddlers.
 
  • Avoid trying to over-engineer the way your toddler plays with others.
 
  • If your child is finding it very difficult to make friends their may be underlying issues you are not aware of.
 
  • If you are worried, you can talk to your GP and contact speech therapists and occupational therapists in your area who work with toddlers on the skills that underpin making friends. Or perhaps look at contacting a paediatrician or child psychologist to discuss their individual social development.

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