From birth, most of us follow our babies’ physical development milestones. We look forward to them and we are very happy when our child crosses these milestones. But do we pay as much attention to social development as well? Even the fundamentals of socialization are laid quite early in life!
For instance, a mother and her year-old son are walking on the road. The baby smiles and looks at the mother pointing to a dog that is chewing a bone, and he returns to look at the mother. What the baby does shows an important milestone in early social development which is called joint/shared attention.
Shared attention is the ability of two individuals to focus and become curious about another object, like an object, an event, or another person. It is achieved when one of the individuals directs the other’s attention to a thing by looking or pointing, voicing it out and the other one understands the communicator’s intentions. This development kicks in as early as 9 months and continues to grow and develop till about 3 years rapidly. Other milestones that occur at this age are the ability of the baby to socialize with the others, the use of communicative gestures like pointing, coordinating movements, etc.
Initial signs of social development
In the early stages of typical development, the baby will check out our hand as we point to a balloon and only later will understand the communication intent and appearance beyond our hand at what we are pointing to. When a parent plays together with his baby and therefore the parent points to a Toy and says: “Look it’s a toy!” The toddler pays attention to it.
At the age of 1 year, the baby develops further and starts to look at what the parent is pointing at, and then gaze back and look right at the parent to make sure that both are looking at the same things, and share a common interest. The joint attention initiative is the baby’s plan to direct the other’s attention to an object and is taken into account as a symbol of social motivation.
7 Ways To Help Your Toddler Socialize
The first and best toy for your child’s social development is you! Socialization and social behavior are not in-built, it is trained or taught.
Below are the ways you can encourage socialization in your toddler.
1. Follow the baby’s gaze
Encouraging shared attention begins, first and foremost, with parental availability to read the baby’s communication initiatives. Once you notice the main target of the baby’s gaze (i.e. what he’s looking at), or the thing that your baby is pointing to you can attend to him better. The more you attend to their rudimentary efforts to socialize with you. The more they will try and start to communicate with you.
2. Respond to your toddler’s effort
Look with interest at where your baby’s eyes direct. For instance, when pointing to pictures in a book, concentrate on where the baby’s eyes are. That way you will know which object has caught your baby’s attention and give the response to that object. Like you can name the object, describe the object, point to the object, etc. Your interest in what interests them brings in delights them, and they will feel secure with you. You can get more insights on storytelling from the article Storytelling to kids – Popular Trend this day.
3. Encourage free play
Let the baby lead the sport. Join the baby’s play initiatives while finding the balance between the intentional and therefore the spontaneous. for instance, if your baby enjoys throwing dice, join him during this “game” and, within the next step, try directing your baby to throw the dice into a box or build a tower from the dice you threw. it’s important to offer room to the child’s initiatives and to reply positively to their initiatives.
4. Set play dates
Invite other toddlers in your friend’s circle or neighborhood for pay dates. Engage the toddlers in collaborative activities such as play ball, and play catch. Play games that require the toddler to learn to take turns, relate to another, and represent the other’s actions.
5. Play face to face
Encourage your child to look at your face. The adult’s attitude toward the toddler will determine the toddler’s ability to look at the adult over time. When playing with the child make sure the child sees your face, reactions, and facial expressions. For example, place the baby in a sitting with your face facing you with your back resting on your raised legs. Thus, the parent can be at the toddler’s eye level during the interaction. Focusing and listening to the signals the baby gives. All this helps in building a sense of confidence and encourages them to be expressive back.
6. Follow their interest
The best way to keep your toddler engaged is to follow their interest and build on them. If your toddler likes to read a book, spend some time doing that. Have storytelling time or just read the book they choose. Use a lot of expressions and voice modulations when you do so. The same goes for if they like to play with clay or sand. Or just play with utensils when you are working in the kitchen.
7. Be a good role model
Children watch all you do. Including your own social skills. How to interact with the environment etc. Parents who are warm and skilled at socializing also have children who like to laugh and smile easily. As a parent, it’s best to avoid criticism while your child is playing, and be responsive to the ideas he proposes.
While the above encouragement from your side can help your toddler develop social skills. It is also equally important for parents to know their child’s nature and encourage them accordingly.
For example, some kids are naturally shy. And some are introverted. Pushing an introverted kid to socialize or have many play dates will only put more pressure on the kid. And they might start feeling they let you down. So, be cognizant of it. Give your support and encouragement to your kid based on their nature. There is no one size fits all. When you tailor your approach to each of your kids and their situation. You will be more successful in your approach.