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Why are toddlers so anti-social?

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'It's time that we reclaimed wild time for kids, the time spent playing outdoors.'

Durban - Parents are often concerned about their toddlers socialising – or rather not socialising – with other toddlers. Most concerns come from parents with toddlers of between 18 months and three years.

Is it normal for them not to play with one another and constantly try to take away everything the other child has?

Yes, very much so.

Socialising doesn’t come easily to most toddlers and sometimes we wonder if it’s going to happen at all. When grouping a bunch of toddlers of a similar age together one is more likely to see a free-for-all than the lovely interaction we might be expecting.

This typical behaviour is only natural.

Toddlers are the centres of their own universes. They view other toddlers as objects to be prodded and poked – objects that move and make a noise, but are holding on to the toy they would like.

They sometimes get very puzzled when a fellow object pushes back, making them difficult to interact with.

How do we help them overcome this?

Exposure, as with most developmental and learning experiences, is recommended.

Even with toddlers who attend a regular group, social etiquette takes time to develop. There are likely to be lots of tears and struggles in the group before they learn to play together.

Children exposed to social activities, which are a mix of mommy-led and time for self-exploring of the other “objects”, learn faster about how to master this complex thing called socialising.

Being civilised is not inherited, like blue eyes or brown hair. Some toddlers are more open to it then others. But it does not mean your shy, reserved toddler will be socially awkward for the rest of his life.

It was widely accepted that toddlers start playing with one another by age three. Researchers now question this.

Toddlers who have been exposed to groups earlier start making friends from as young as one year and start playing with the other children from around two.

Younger siblings seem to master this skill earlier as well. Socialising within the family teaches you to play nicely.

Don’t be concerned – it is normal and will keep improving with the right guidance from everyone around them. - The Mercury

* Liz Victor is the director of TOPTOTS Early Learning SA. you can locate a branch near you on www.toptots.co.za.

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