Build social skills in shy toddlers

Help reserved children grow socially with these helpful suggestions.

There are steps parents can take to help their children build social skills. Photo credit: Pixabay.
There are steps parents can take to help their children build social skills. Photo credit: Pixabay.

What to do with a shy toddler? As loving parents, we worry that they won’t learn to fit into social situations and will suffer isolation into adulthood, not to mention the psychological pain of not having friends. There are steps parents can take to help their children build social skills.

We already know that from infancy children are learning from the world around them. In a common sense kind of way, with repeated experiences children are learning outcomes. Say, for example, a child experiences trips to the store on a daily basis. The child is making sense out of public encounters. For instance, “When I smile, people smile back”, or their level of comfort in the public is being built. 

According to Zero to Three, a website of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, there are steps parents can take to help their children.   One of the first suggestions is not to label your child as being shy. Labels tend to stick. Simply stating, “It takes a while for my child to warm up,” should suffice. 

It is also helpful to know your child’s temperament. Sometimes, children are just not too quick to jump into a social situation, but may be more comfortable observing from the parents lap. One can explore games with the child, bringing them closer to other children. It is also helpful to introduce the child to others around from the safety of your lap.  When possible, have a compatible playmate over for a play date.  The child may feel more at ease in their home environment.

A parent can demonstrate acceptable social behavior, such as greetings and hugs, to family members when appropriate. Letting the child know these are people we love. In anticipation of a social gathering, parents can prepare the child by creating a photo album of relatives and people the child will be meeting. Going over the album frequently will help build familiarity. It is also helpful to let family members and others know in advance what your child does not like and not to take it personally, but rather to play with the child with toys s/he likes and to follow their lead.  In time they will develop a relationship with your child. Letting the child know in advance what will be taking place can also be helpful. If it involves going places, then perhaps, showing the child books of things they will see there can be helpful.

Although, some children may tend to lean towards not being very social, a parent can still provide social experiences that will help build their child’s’ in social skills.

For more articles on child development, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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