Some toddlers are the social butterflies of the group and always want to be in control, while others would prefer to play alone quietly and off in the corner. In some respects it’s not much different than a typical workplace or an adult party.
If you are worried about your little one and their shyness, let’s look at some playdate strategies for you to start trying, and at the same time discover why shyness may not be such a bad thing.
Shy Is Not a Bad Word
Your child may be cautious, find it difficult to warm up to new people, and generally feel uncertain in some situations, but when you think about it, is that really so bad? As adults, we can mirror some of those qualities while still being perfectly successful and emotionally healthy individuals. The point is to not negatively brand your child as shy to friends, relatives, or teachers.
Ways to Encourage Interaction with Others
If your child finds it difficult to socialize, there are ways you can slowly encourage him or her to interact with others during playdates.
- Finding group games and activities is an ingenious way to help your child become more comfortable around others. Give out crayons and drawing pads and ask them all to draw their favorite person or animal. Then they can then start up a conversation by sharing their drawings.
- Role play some activities. Get down on the floor and engage in a game you know will be played at the next playdate. Roll a ball back and forth. Get some blocks and see how high each of you can build them.
- Sit in a circle and tell stories while encouraging your shy toddler to make eye contact with others and maybe even giggle a bit.
- Practice some situations with them at home like sharing a toy with another child.
You can’t force a shy toddler to become instantly sociable, just like you can’t make an introvert become an extrovert. Everyone has a different personality and toddlers are developing theirs during these early years. In order to become more comfortable around their peers, they need adult support and encouragement.
Trying to force socialization may only make them resist even more.
Be Your Child’s Social Role Model
Children watch everything adults do, especially their parents. You can show them how to behave in various social situations like when meeting new people or interacting with those you already know. Later discuss with them what they noticed and how you acted.
When to Be Concerned
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you should also be wary of little ones who develop aggressive antisocial tendencies or become too gregarious. They may show signs of irritability and hostility in social situations, as well as behaviors like hurting the family dog or cat. In these cases, speaking to a pediatric counselor like Dr. Natalie Vona should be your immediate action.
The bottom line is to avoid pushing your expectations on your shy child, especially at this early age. Don’t expect them to become little carbon copies of you.
Shy toddlers will eventually become more sociable. As time passes, the extent of their interactions will depend on their developing personality and your patient encouragement.
Make an appointment with a pediatric psychologist from one of our offices if you are concerned about your child’s lack of socialization or overly aggressive tendencies.