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Learning To Play With Others

Playing nicely with others give your toddler the chance to learn vital socialisation skills: sharing, manners and self-control.

But she’ll need your help to succeed.

It’s about the play, not the chat: no one can blame you for launching yourself enthusiastically into your cup of tea and a chat with a friend while your children play, but don’t let the chat consume all your attention, or you may miss signs that your child needs you.

Playing near each other: it’s normal for young toddlers to play near each other rather than with each other, losing themselves in the task at hand. Don’t be surprised if first contact is conflict over a desirable toy. Distract one child by getting down and offering something else or reading a story, or with older children, try setting a timer to signal when it’s time to take turns.

Know your child: what’s your child’s personality? Sensitive? Exuberant? It’s great to expose toddlers to others with different traits, but if somebody always end up in tears, the fit might be wrong, even if the moms get on famously. Seek out different playmates, or try a small group rather than one-on-one play time.

Kids who hit and the mothers who love them: it’s never ok for any child to hit, push or bite, although it does happen with young children. Many moms try to follow the Baby Whisperer’s rule of 1, 2, 3 – the first time it happens, offer comfort to the child who was hit, then tell your child “You may not hit, that hurts people”; the second time, quietly leave the room with her and explain you can’t stay if she hits; if a third offence happens or is imminent, intervene, pack up and take her home. Stay calm and confident: your goal is to teach her good behaviour, not shame or scold her on the way home.

Tidy up time: children as young as two respond surprisingly well to helping tidy up after play, and if the play time was in someone else’s home, your friend will be grateful if her sitting room isn’t a bomb site after everyone’s gone. Encourage every child to pitch in, even if it’s just dropping one block into the toy box. Sing a song, have a race to see who puts away the most toys, just make it more fun than ‘cleaning up’ and your child will most likely join in.

Do you go to toddler groups or on play dates with your child – or do you dread it in case it ends in disaster? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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