As mentioned in our milestones blog Roman met his cousin that was born on the same day for the first time! And although they might not be “interacting” yet they are definitely observing and learning to be in a group environment. Play dates and even mommy & me classes teach our children how to:
As infants you can show children how to greet people by physically prompting their hand while you say “Hi”. If they are still learning to do tummy time feel free to put them in front of each other so they can see each other’s faces. Chances are they will probably last longer in that position because their peer is doing the same action! Modeling from same-aged peers is always helpful! And once they begin babbling up a storm, they can start taking turns having a mini “conversation”.
Truly learning to empathize does not occur till much later, but it is never too early to begin. Let’s say your child hits another kiddo by mistake you can take his hand and practice “nice touch” and talk about how that made the other child feel.
If you have a younger infant they may not be “playing” yet, but bringing out objects such as rattles, cause and effect toys, or even playing some music will definitely get them exploring and feeling the beat. As children get older they will engaged in functional play, symbolic play, parallel play, and pretend play. At this point, your child may be engaging in some functional play (eg – banging a drum). Feel free to model actions so that your child has a visual representation to go by!
There are times during playdates you have to sit at a restaurant or sit in circle time during class. Sharing is also a major skill to be learned with other children – at this age you can practice giving toys to each other nicely. Waiting is also a skill that can we worked on as they get older. The majority of the time you are free to explore and learn about the world around you, but these “rules” help children learn what is expected of them. Also, they are still too young to clean up by themselves, but at the end of activities they can certainly be physically prompted as you sing the “clean up” song. The more routine these “rules” become the less they seem like “rules”. As a working New York Mommy, I LOVE checking out Kidz Central Station for classes. You can simply plug in the date/time or the semester and tons of classes in your neighborhood come up. There are always tons of deals too!