Social Developmental milestones Toddlers
How did your child start connecting with other people? How and when did he start making friends? It all began with you. As his parent, you were your child's first playmate — the first one to laugh at his antics and respond to his babbled "conversation." With your help (and reassurance) he's learned how to interact with others and discovered how easy and fun it is to get them to smile, make faces, maybe even make "raspberry" noises back at him. For the next two years he'll build on these first experiences, learning to play games, hold conversations, make friends, and delight relatives. Learning to socialize is a lifelong process, one that your toddler is now discovering firsthand.
12 to 18 months
During the first year, your toddler focused mainly on developing physical skills such as grabbing and picking up objects and learning to walk. He enjoyed short bursts of playtime with others, such as Grandma and Grandpa, but he preferred you and perhaps a beloved babysitter or caregiver above all others.
It's a different story now that he's a toddler. He's increasingly interested in the world around him, though he still sees everything in terms of how it relates to him. As your child learns to talk and communicate, he's discovering other people and how fun it is to try to elicit reactions from others. (Toddlers love to flirt.) Of course, this is also the peak of many toddlers' separation anxiety, so your toddler may be unusually clingy and timid at times. Don't worry, this usually diminishes rapidly after 18 months.
Now is when your toddler will start to really enjoy the company of other kids, both his age and older. You may notice, though, that he and his pals engage primarily in "parallel play" — that is, they sit side by side but play on their own. Older toddlers (around 18 months old) start interacting more with their playmates but are fiercely protective of their toys.
Kids this age may go through a period when they act like mini Count Draculas, biting their friends, but that's usually related to their exploration of what they can do with their teeth and their inability to communicate what they need. Biting (and other forms of aggression such as pulling hair or kicking) usually diminishes as your child learns to express his feelings through words.
19 to 25 months
Around the time he turns 2, your toddler will start to actively reach out to other children. But as with any other skill, he learns how to socialize with others by trial and error. Right now, he's unable to share his things. That's because he lives in the moment and can't envision anything beyond it, so the concept of taking turns — of waiting to play with a toy until after his friend has had a chance — is meaningless to him.
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