The toddler years are characterized by rapid development of all kinds, including social learning. Between family interactions, play groups, outings and day care, your toddler will have plenty of chances to learn social norms and establish relationships. According to child development website KidsHealth, 70 percent of parents place their children in some sort of daily care. It is important to understand how your toddler’s social development evolves and how you can ensure that day care makes a positive impact.
During the toddler years, your child learns much of her social behavior from modeling and imitating others, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is still learning how to interact with others and will be more self-focused with limited outside interactions, but consistent exposure to other children will help her learn social concepts like sharing. The quality of the relationships she develops can depend on the day care itself. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families says small room or class sizes are important for encouraging intimacy and forming social relationships at day care.
A positive day-care environment is necessary for improving your toddler’s social development. As a toddler, your child is working on forming vocabulary, and the AAP indicates that his responses to others often will be physical, which can result in hitting or biting. Without enough space or toys, the social interactions between children can become increasingly negative. Additionally, if the day care lacks a caregiver who responds sensitively or understands the development of toddlers, it can hinder your child’s ability to comfortably explore his environment or develop relationships at day care.
Finding the right day care for your toddler will go a long way in making sure her social development is affected in a positive way. Make sure the day care employs licensed, trained workers, and ask questions about what the day care does to encourage aspects of your child’s development. Once your child is enrolled, make sure you receive some kind of daily update that tells you what your child experienced or learned that day. This can help you keep track of her experiences and build on them at home.
Keep in mind that while day care can boost your toddler’s social development, family still will have a huge influence. Talk to and play with your child regularly so that you are encouraging his social development at home. If your toddler has any special needs, like a hearing or language problem, he might experience more difficulties developing socially. Talk to his doctor about ways you can help him both at home and at day care.