Did it take your toddler a while to warm up to the other kids at your last play date?

Does your normally talkative 2 or 3 year old clam up in social situations?  

Many toddlers struggle to warm up socially, but you can help them feel more comfortable with the below tips and prompts to make social situations more fun for everyone.

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Why you shouldn’t call your Toddler shy

According to Laurie Hollman,Ph.D. “calling your child shy may shame and embarrass [them], furthering a potential problem if there is one”.  

Labeling your child in front of other children or adults doesn’t help make them more comfortable, in fact it does the opposite. 

Instead try using a phrase like “Sophia likes to watch for a few minutes before joining.” This explains what’s going on and let’s Sophia know it’s fine to take a minute (or more).

If you want to encourage your child to be more comfortable in social situations below are 7 tips that can help.

 

7 Tips To Help Your “Shy Toddler” Warm Up Socially

1.  Have a Pep Talk

Before you arrive talk about the other children and adults, where you are going and what you will be doing. 

If you have photos of the other kids let them look at them in advance to gain some familiarity.  You can also talk about the last time you all got together and how much fun it was.

2.  Get There Early

 If it’s a party or play date at a venue try to get there a little early so your child can get used to the space and get comfortable.  

Take a tour around together so they know where everything is.  Let them play with a few things to get used to it all. 

3.  Have Crafts/Activities 

Bring/have some crafts or activities for all the kids that will get them doing the same thing right away.  

If your child sees the other children doing the same thing it will encourage them to continue interacting.  It also helps get natural conversations going.

You can also use it as an opportunity to show your child they have things in common with the other kids “Max likes the color green too!” 

4.  Get Down and Play With Them

Start the day off by engaging with the other children to show your toddler that it is safe.  

Play a little game all together and then gradually play less and less while encouraging them to play together. Eventually you can step away and they probably won’t even notice!

5.  Do It Again Soon 

Try to schedule another meeting shortly after this visit to keep the familiarity and momentum going.  

6.  Have Your Toddler Give a Little Gift 

 Kids love giving out gifts. Something as simple and inexpensive as stickers can be a nice way to break the ice for your toddler.

 For an adult event, let your child give the host/hostess gift.

7.  Let Your Toddler Be The Helper 

At an adult-event, have your child be a helper. Let them carry things in, help you set out a plate of food, etc. Giving them a role helps them find their place sooner.  

Also, make sure you bring toys from home so they have something to do later.  Some adults will hopefully come join them. 

 

Conclusion – How to Help Your Toddler Warm Up Socially

Remember, with social warming you don’t force anything, but instead use gentle leading.

Just as you shouldn’t call your child shy, you also shouldn’t force them to play with other kids or expect them to have conversations with strangers.  

Most younger toddlers just aren’t quite ready to play together.  Many are still in the “solitary” or “parallel” stages of play and don’t need to interact with other children to have fun.

However, you can gently lead them to play next to a little friend or show them both similar toys to play with.  

Using the tips above will help get your toddler exposed to social situations and learn how to warm. But it takes time! Keep trying.

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