8 tips to help your toddler make friends

“Friends are special; so important, they make the world go ‘round’,” says Barney. Here’s how to help your little one find those special buddies. By Lynne Giddish

Your child’s social development and interaction with others are just as important as his motor developmental milestones. “Toddlers learn from each other, and interaction between them facilitates language and social development,” says Kim Lazarus, an educational psychologist from the Psychology and Wellness Centre in Johannesburg, (www.pawc.co.za).

At what age will my toddler start making friends?

Your toddler will only begin to play directly with another child nearer to the age of three. Until around age two and a half, he is more likely to play alongside another child, or perhaps both children will ignore each other all together.

8 tips to help your toddler make friends

Remember that not always being able to speak, listen and respond effectively, says Kim, means that toddlers will often need assistance when it comes to the formation of healthy friendships. Here’s how you can help your toddler make friends:

  • You are your child’s first and primary teacher, and the way in which you interact with him will influence the way that he interacts with others.
  • Model co-operative behaviours: “Let’s do this together” or “Let’s clean up together, and then we can play.”
  • Introduce and encourage sharing: “Jess, we both need to have a turn to play with the toy. Do you want to go first, or should I?”
  • Encourage outdoor free play at home rather than watching TV or playing iPad games, as these activities encourage and foster solitary and individualised play rather than interactive play.
  • Be affectionate with your child, as children who are able to express themselves in a caring and loving way, are more likely to attract others and be liked by peers.
  • Teach your child manners and polite ways of speaking to others.
  • Explain things clearly, in order to facilitate learning: “Lebo is upset that you took her toy; maybe she will feel better if you give it back and ask her for a turn later”.
  • Help your child to name and label his emotions: “When Sam took your toy, I wonder if you felt sad?”

Making friends is one of the best ways toddlers develop into emotionally and socially healthy adults, because friends enrich one’s life and fill you with happiness. As Barney puts it so succinctly: “Being friends is very special; be a friend and you’ll be glad!”

*Originally published in May 2015

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