Parents want the best for their children and that includes wanting them to be friendly and comfortable in social situations.
However, it can be hard to strike a balance between encouraging them and pushing them too far out of their comfort zone.
Whether it's introducing them to older children, indulging them in their favourite hobbies or letting them help you around the house, there are plenty of steps you can take pretty early on in your little one's life to help them be more sociable.
9 ways to help your baby be more sociable:
1) Introduce them to older children
Babies are often obsessed with older children. Watching older siblings is an important way for them to learn. If your little one is an only child or you simply want to maximise their social abilities, introduce your baby to older kids. They provide a constant source of inspiration when it comes down to walking, eating, talking and humour. Being around an older child is likely to make your child more comfortable in mixed aged groups further down the line.
2) Follow their hobbies and interests
If your little one has specific activities that they prefer doing, this is the ideal way to introduce them to other children. Let them bring a friend along when you go to the park or let both of them paint together as shared interests can fuel interaction and friendships. If they feel comfortable and relaxed doing their favourite hobby they are less likely to feel shy and awkward.
3) Expand their social circle slowly
Your baby won't be old enough for playdates but they can still benefit from being around other children. Mothers groups are a good opportunity for your baby to get used to big groups, talking and playing. Babies are likely to learn from the other children around them which will help with their development. Exposing children to adults is good too but can be overwhelming. When your baby is very little, only invite over a few people at a time. You can increase this and broaden their circle over time.
4) Show them affection
We know we don't have to ask you twice to snuggle your baby and show them some love! Babies who are shown love and affection are more likely to be affectionate themselves. Being kind and affectionate is an important part of becoming a friendly and sociable child. Children who are more open and affectionate are likely to have more friends in the long run.
5) Show them the world
Taking your baby with you when you run errands or visit friends will broaden their social experiences. If you take your little one to the shops they will feel more comfortable in bustling environments and they won't be so overwhelming for them in later life. You can start with the familiar faces of friends and family and then gradually build up their confidence. It is all worth it for that moment when your tot smiles at a stranger in the checkout queue. Top tip: If it is an errand you hate doing then maybe don't bring them along. You want them to see you enjoying yourself so that they know it is fun to be around other people.
6) Let them help you
This is easier said than done but the earlier you start the better. Encourage them to be helpful by letting them complete tasks with you like gardening, washing or tidying (even if they are more of a hinderance than help). Babies and toddlers who are part of family who cares about helping others will be more likely to have good social skills.
7) Use their favourite toy
A baby's favourite toy or book provides them with comfort and familiarity. This will make it easier in social situations and it can be used as an ice breaker. Encourage your guests to play with this particular toy with your little one as it will be less daunting for them.
8) Be a good role model
This seems obvious but after a long day it might be hard for you to be upbeat and friendly at all times. When your partner comes through the door, take the baby with you to greet them warmly. Ask how their day was and give them a hug or kiss. Show your little one that this is how we interact with those around us. If you are polite and respectful and your baby sees this, they are much more likely to follow your example.
9) Know their limits
If your baby is tired or is clearly not in the mood for socialising, don't push it. It is hard to strike a balance between encouraging them to be independent and not distressing them but you don't want them to associate socialising with negative emotions. Avoid this by having guests around when your baby is at their most energetic and happy. If your child is shy, don't force them into strangers arms and don't leave them in a room alone if this will make them feel uncomfortable.
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Catriona originally joined the team as an Editorial Assistant to work on the 2019 M&B Awards. As a Digital Writer, she has written and updated hundreds of articles on the site from medical explainers to celebs news and shopping galleries.
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