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Teaching Your Toddler to Play With Others

How To Introduce Your Toddler Playtime With Others

While it might seem contrary to popular playground belief, you shouldn't feel pressured to keep a social calendar for your toddler or preschooler.

"I don't think parents need to arrange playdates," says Michael Gurian, author of "Nurture the Nature," and "The Wonder of Girls" and "The Wonder of Boys."

Social opportunities can happen more organically. Children can benefit from you taking them to the park, shopping or going to the library where they can naturally learn to model you in social settings and play with children they meet.

In fact, if you have a child who is sensitive or shy by nature, making playdates with other children could exacerbate the problem, Gurian says. Instead, involve other adults such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and trusted friends who will be better able to engage a shy child than a peer.

Always prep your child before entering social settings, letting him know where you're going and how you expect him to behave. If your child is going through a hitting stage, reiterate "no hitting" before you arrive at your destination. If there is a tussle over a toy, give the children a few minutes to try to work it out.

"Resist the external and internal pressures of competitive parenting to have the child who is the best behaved," Gurian says.

If lack of sharing or taking turns becomes a bigger struggle -- hitting, pushing, or crying -- that's when adults should step in and teach children to use their words and understand empathy. Say, "We don't throw things at people. It hurts." Over time your child will learn the rules of the sandbox, and you'll spend less time instructing and more time watching from the sidelines.

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