The last two years have made many parents nervous that their children are missing out on important milestones that shape how they view and interact with the world and those around them. Families' comfort level may differ, but almost every parent has felt this in some way, whether because of daycare closures, remote school, or canceled extracurricular activities. Here are 5 options to consider:
Research shows that for young children, their socialization needs don’t have to be met by kids their own age - they just as easily can be met by their parents and Caregivers. Experts agree that by engaging in parallel play and meaningful conversations with children, the Caregiver can take on the role of playmate in lieu of a peer.
Read with your kids
When you read with your children, it encourages not just literacy, but also language development, communication, and creativity. For an added bonus with verbal children, talk about the book when you finish. Dive into the characters’ actions, motives, feelings, and interactions with others by asking open-ended questions about the story.
Talk to people on walks or other errands
If your child isn’t exposed to many people because they aren’t currently going to daycare, school, or a play group, use the people you encounter in everyday life to decrease stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. When you go on walks, say hello to people you encounter and when you’re at the grocery store or running errands, interact with the cashier and other shoppers. This shows kids they don’t need to be afraid of other people outside their family, and this is simple to adjust to your comfort levels - you can easily stay outside, wear a mask, or maintain 6 feet of distance.
Engage in small group play
If your family is comfortable, small group play can be an excellent way to get your child interacting with their peers. This could mean setting up a playdate with trusted friends, joining a playgroup, or using Otter. With Otter, you can sign up to provide care for a family that has children of a similar age. Or you can sign up for care for a few hours a week so that you can be matched with a Caregiver who has kids of a similar age.
Show your children there is a larger world out there by interacting with family and friends who you might not be able to see regularly anyway because of distance. Schedule regular Facetime calls or have your children draw pictures, make cards, or write letters to send to your loved ones as a way to help them feel more connected outside their home.
Socialization is a critical part of development for children of all ages and the good news is there are ways everyone can do it, regardless of your current situation or comfort level. We hope that you’ve found that you’re already doing some of the things listed!