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Toddlers and Social Play

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I have an 18 month old who is not in daycare. My husband and I both work and my daughter spends her week in an in-home daycare with just one other child who just turned 3. We try to do play dates with friends' children whenever we can so she can keep developing her social skills.


I'm beginning to notice that my daughter prefers older children (around 3 or 4 years old) to play with. She'll go up to a child her age and wave, say "hi" and even hug them. They either stare back at her or freak out that she's invading their space. My daughter seems confused by them not talking/interacting back. On the other hand, she seems to smoothly integrate with an older child, as I mentioned above. For example, a friend comes over and brings her 2 year old to play with my daughter and her older 4 year old tags along, too. My daughter ends up playing with the 4 year old, not the 2 year old. Is that normal?


She's abnormally verbally precocious. And has a lot of other indicators that she may be gifted. I'm trying not to spend a lot of energy on whether she is or isn't right now, but could this be another way that she stands out from her peers?


So, I guess my REAL question is, how did your child do socially at a very young age? And do you think that's a reflection of them being gifted?

post #2 of 3

If you look at social development, toddlers operate via their social bubbles, often engaging in parallel play with their same age peers as they're not developmentally ready for equitable give and take.  Older kids often like to be caretakers and think youngers are "soo cute!,"  and will make allowances for younger kids because they're accommodating the "baby"  or "little kid" because they themselves feel so mature in doing so.  It's not as mutual as play between older, more developmentally similar children.

post #3 of 3

I want to start by saying that pretty much all toddlers and preschoolers prefer being with adults or older kids. Why wouldn't they? Younger kids have more control when they are playing with older people. Adults and older children know to be careful with little ones, let them choose the games, give up toys a little one might want. Age peers tend to treat you like an equal at all ages. They will expect their friends to take a turn. They will want to play what THEY want more often than what a friend wants. They will more often say "no" instead of just relinquishing a favorite toy like an older child would do for a little one. It's really very normal for kids to prefer being with older children.


At 18 months, most kids are pretty much doing parallel play... playing by friends, not really with them. Even if they are in the same space building with the same blocks on the same structure, if you talk to them, they are usually imagining totally different things. My eldest was not social at all at 18 months. We hadn't yet joined a playgroup and she was happy just to play with me and daddy. At 18 months, my DS was super social. He had a big sister and so was always running after her friends. He didn't have much interaction with age mates until preschool and at that point, he was more than happy to be with kids his own age.

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