I, like many new moms, had plans to promote my baby’s social and emotional development early on. One way many families accomplish this is through peer socialization, which is very difficult or even impossible in our current time. Older children, teens, and adults have the ability to socialize using technology. Babies do not yet have the cognition to fully appreciate a virtual play date like older kids might. While many babies who fall behind in social and emotional development are able to recover those skills before entering the school system, there are several ways you can encourage your baby to progress during this time.
You may notice that when babies play, they often don’t engage with each other, but rather share a space and sometimes toys while playing. While it is still important to have play time where you interact directly with your little one, try to incorporate a portion of play time sitting near your child but engaging with another toy. You might notice your baby observing how you interact with an activity or mimic your actions. Don’t forget, playing is learning!
Watching someone else play with a fun toy has an effect on babies. A baby can immediately abandon whatever they are doing and make it their life mission to explore this amazing toy. Because you are an amazing mommy or daddy, you might be tempted to immediately hand over this fascinating toy. Remember how important the skill of sharing is and how often it needs to be practiced before a child will master it. Use these opportunities to redirect your child to their own toy if possible. If not, try swapping toys with them and returning to parallel play.
This one might feel silly for some parents, but seeing others express emotions is part of socializing. If your baby hurts you or takes something from you, try briefly showing a typical reaction of a baby or small child (frowning, softly crying, exhaling) and then return to play. While language is limited in small children, they still communicate to the outside world in many ways, including through play!