Is there anything cuter than seeing a pair of 3-year-olds holding hands or hugging? When I see those very first friendships, it just warms my heart. They’re so uncomplicated. “I like you! You’re nice to me! Let’s be friends!” As a mom, I feel that those first connections a child makes with children outside their family are a barometer for how I’m doing as a mom. After all, as tear-inducing as it may be, I know my ultimate goal is that my child is able to build healthy, happy relationships entirely on her own.
At 2.5, my daughter still has rather few children she’s able to socialize with, but has still been able to start developing skills like sharing, follow the leader and taking turns -keys to developin
g a connection with another toddler. What’s most interesting for me is to observe her in a setting with many young children she doesn’t know. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have the great pleasure to work at our local children’s museum, so I get to bring my daughter on my off days all the time. We have a special gallery designed for children only 5 years and younger, and let me tell you, this place is like a petri dish for early childhood development.
My approach currently is to let my daughter interact or not with the other kids however she wants to. I’ll jump in if she starts to seem really uncomfortable, but otherwise I just observe. What does she do when another kid doesn’t say “hello” back to her or shares a toy with her or splashes her in the water table? I don’t micromanage. I want to see what she’s learning just by how we interact at home. So far so good.
As good parents,we put a lot of emphasis on the fundamentals of civility – please, thank you, share, don’t hit- all very important. As our toddlers become preschoolers, though, I think it’s important to step back a bit and see what’s sticking. I wasn’t there when she made her very first friend, but when I see them play together, I know we’re doing okay. Just like so much of raising a child, preparing them for great friendships means filling them up like beautiful balloons only so we can let them fly on their own.