For toddlers play is serious business – it’s the way in which they learn how the world works. While they play, they learn. You can be the best teacher your child will ever have and it can all be done through play. When your children play with you they feel loved and important and feel they are fun to be around. These social/emotional skills give them the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to continue building loving and supportive relationships all their lives.
Your toddler is remembering more and figuring out how things work.
They will imitate whatever you are doing. This is a time for lots of hugs and cuddles.
All children are different and develop at different rates, so don’t be overly concerned if your toddler is acquiring new skills at a different rate to those around him.
Children usually settle more easily into school life if they have spent some time in a playgroup or preschool setting. In New Zealand, the main providers of early childhood education are kindergartens, play centres, Pacific Islands language groups, education and care services, home-based care services and köhanga reo.
In the toddler years, combining childcare with early learning becomes more important. In a playgroup or pre-school, toddlers learn some of the skills they need for school and also how to behave in a group – sharing toys, having quiet times and playtimes, and getting along without mum or dad. When you visit a childcare centre or playgroup that you’re thinking about for your toddler, look to see:
Make sure your childminder or pre-school know their likes and dislikes and leave their favourite toy or cuddly if they need it to fall asleep.
For toddlers making friends is like walking. At first, they need a lot of support. Later, they can’t wait to charge off on their own.
Most toddlers enjoy having other children around. Until the age of about three, they play near others rather than with them but will form strong attachments to children they see regularly. At this age toy sharing isn’t an option – one or the other will have to have it, or an adult will have to take it away and keep the peace. Even the best of friends of toddler age can be hurtful to one another –social skills take time.
Toddlers do not show much interest in playing together with other children until they are around 3 years old. Instead, they tend to engage in what’s known as parallel play. This is where the children play next to or alongside each other. To you, it looks like playing alone but if they are happy, leave them to it.
Between the ages of two and three years, most toddlers enjoy spending some time each week in a group of children. They learn to make friends with adults on hand to organise activities, sort out squabbles and read stories. Check notice boards or ask your Plunket nurse or Well Child Health provider for details of playgroups in your local area. A couple of sessions a week could be just the social event your toddler needs!
Some children are naturally more introverted than others, especially around strangers, and need more encouragement in social situations. Try instigating a one-to-one play date in your home rather than large toddler group and prepare your child for what’s going to happen in advance, talking about who’s coming and what you’ll all play with.
Your toddler won’t share! The good news is they are not selfish or spoilt and they won’t grow up to be antisocial. They are simply acting their age. The reality is, few children react well when someone else dares to take their things. But don’t give up – there is a way to teach your child the finer points of sharing.
Sharing is very difficult for small children to grasp, mainly because they feel the world is about them, so why should they let another child play with what is obviously theirs? The good news is you can coach your child to share. Imitation is your best tool. If your child sees you, your partner, family and friends sharing, they will see it as a normal way of behaving.
However, there are very distinct stages of child development that will affect your child’s ability to share successfully:
Aside from imitation and praise for your child when they share, it’s important to assure your child that sharing doesn’t mean giving away a toy forever. Many children think if they share they will never see a toy again.
If your child doesn’t want to share something – don’t force them or punish them, as this won’t teach them anything. Not sharing isn’t a reflection on your parenting or your child’s personality (even if it feels that way). It’s simply a sign your child isn’t at the right stage to share yet.