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And you thought it was just about having fun ….

check out this article in Parents Magazine:

Social Development Milestones: Ages 1 to 4

Not sure if your child is on the right track for developing social skills? Be on the lookout for these indicators.

Whether you have an outgoing or shy little one, socialization is an important part of your child’s overall development. “[A] baby’s social development is tied to so many other areas,” says Heather Wittenberg, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist specializing in child development. “Walking, in particular, triggers a cascade of milestones. And since most children begin to walk around the one-year mark, this is when you’ll really start to see some big social milestones occur.”

These milestones are important because they prepare a child to manage personal feelings, understand others’ feelings and needs, and interact in a respectful and acceptable way. Find out what to expect when it comes to your child’s social development.

Age 1

Although mommy-and-me programs are a great way to introduce your toddler to other kids, he will pick up most of his social cues from you. At this age, you’ll notice your baby is able to:

Begin basic communication. One-year-olds will predominantly point and vocalize to express their intentions, says Maria Kalpidou, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s important to interact with your toddler by acknowledging what he’s looking at and pointing out other cool things around him.

Recognize familiar people. When he sees Grandma and Grandpa, the babysitter, the pediatrician, and other familiar people, your toddler will begin to greet them with a smile (or a cry, depending on his mood!). “If the baby isn’t paying attention to anyone around [him], that is definitely a red flag,” Dr. Wittenberg says. “You want him to be aware of what — and who — is around him, even if he cries when someone besides Mom and Dad walks into the room.”

Interact with you. If your child hands you toys, this shows his willingness and ability to engage with others. This also sets the stage for lessons in taking turns, but don’t expect too much on the sharing front just yet. “Back-and-forth playing is so important,” Dr. Wittenberg says. “You want your child to show signs of independence but also to be keyed into appropriate social situations.”

Age 2

Around this age, your child is engaging more with those around her, but she still prefers to play with Mom and Dad. Right now, your child is able to:

Begin to socialize. Children typically engage in parallel play at this age; this means that they play next to instead of with each other. “There isn’t a lot of interaction with kids at this stage but it’s still important to give your child time with other kids,” Dr. Wittenberg says.

Defend territory. This is the age where kids start fighting over toys and declaring, “It’s mine!” Sharing is, of course, very difficult at this age, as 2-year-olds can’t see another child’s perspective. “Their social behavior reflects egocentric thinking, and their behavior is guided by their desires,” Dr. Kalpidou says. Model sharing and taking turns with your spouse to help your child learn these important social actions.

Extend relationships to other people. Showing an interest in others is a key part of socialization, and kids will begin to seek out interactions beyond those with Mom and Dad. Whether it’s playing with Grandma and Grandpa or waving hello to the cashier at the market, your toddler is learning to enjoy the company of others. Although some kids aren’t as outgoing around others, don’t be so quick to label them as “shy.” “Parents often see shynessas a negative, but it’s normal for kids to be slow to warm [up] to people they don’t know or don’t see very often,” Dr. Wittenberg explains. “Give your child time to adjust to new situations and follow her lead.”

Age 3

Your child might soon be starting preschool, where he’ll have other peers to socialize with and a chance to forge a few friendships. Right now, you’ll notice that he is able to:

Seek out others. Associative play begins at this age, so your child will start to look for other kids. “It’s important at this stage to give your child plenty of opportunities to spend time with peers,” Dr. Wittenberg advises. But your child will need help in navigating these social situations. Although he can understand some behavioral and safety rules, offer gentle reminders about sharing and taking turns.

Use his imagination. Dress-up, pretend play, and other creative activities will be part of playdates. “Your child will also make friends based on mutual interests,” Dr. Kalpidou says. The concept of sharing can still be hard for kids this age, but this is also a time where they can understand compromise and be respectful of one another. “Kids this age are more likely to solve conflicts with friends in order to maintain their play and show more positive behaviors to one another,” Dr. Kalpidou adds.

Start to understand emotions. Your child still learns best from you, so point out different feelings (happy, sad, scared) when watching TV or reading a book. This will help your child be more aware of his own feelings as well as those of others. Also, kids will start to show empathy by offering hugs and kisses when needed.

Age 4

Kindergarten is right around the corner, and your big girl will soon learn the ropes of socializing with new friends. At this age, she is able to:

Show interest in being part of a group. Your child now enjoys playing with others and interacting with her peers more. Experts say this is a good age to sign kids up for a sports team, such as soccer or T-ball. “Choose activities where there aren’t too many rules or restrictions,” Dr. Wittenberg suggests. “If not, it can ruin the experience for them and they’ll never want to play again.”

Share and cooperate more with others. There will still be tugs-of-war over toys, but your child can understand the concept of sharing and waiting her turn. “There is an increased awareness of other people’s minds, which allows children to develop negotiation skills, resolve conflicts verbally, monitor the emotional state of a group, and regulate other children’s behavior,” Dr. Kalpidou says.

Be physically affectionate. By now your little one is offering plenty more hugs and kisses to you and showing affection toward family and friends, especially when she sees them in distress. “Kids this age engage in more pro-social behaviors, such as sharing and expressing sympathy,” Dr. Kalpidou says.

Exert more independence. The catch-22 of parenting is that you want your child to be more independent, but she often picks the worst times to do things her way, as when she insists on dressing herself when you’re running late, or when she wants to help you put away her toys (but in the wrong place). Still, being confident and comfortable in her own abilities is an important part of successfully socializing, especially as she gets older.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

Keep your eye on your toddlers’ eyes
from PBS.org:

Toddlers’ screen time linked to slower speech development, study finds

Hand-held screens might delay a child’s ability to form words, based on new research being presented this week at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. This preliminary study is the first to show how mobile devices impact speech development in children, raising a question that fills the minds of many parents: How much time should my child spend with a mobile device?

But for parents who see mobile devices as an education tool, don’t immediately lock away your smartphone or tablet. Here’s what you should know about the risk.

Express yourself

Studies on media usage and child development are notoriously difficult to conduct. Doctors can’t exactly split up a bunch of babies and say, “you kids spend a lot of time with your iPads, while the rest of you don’t. Let’s see what happens.”

So Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, relied on well-child visits, regular checkups that assess a child’s growth, health and development. From 2011 to 2015, she asked the parents of to estimate how much time their children spent each day with hand-held screens, like smartphones, tablets and electronic games. Meanwhile, Birken and her team assessed each child with the Infant Toddler Checklist — a screening tool that looks for signs of delayed communication development.

“It isn’t a definitive diagnosis,” Birken said, but it does assess whether a child is at-risk and needs to be referred for further evaluation. In total, Birken’s team recruited and examined nearly 900 toddlers, aged 6 to 24 months, for the study.

By the time they reached their 18-month checkups, 20 percent of the children used mobile devices for 28 minutes on average each day. They found children who spent more time with hand-held screens were more likely to exhibit signs of a delay in expressive speech — how children use their sounds and words, and how they put their words together to communicate.

"Parents should be wary of educational apps marketed for children 24 months or younger," pediatrician Jenny Radesky said, because “the science on this says quite clearly that [these] children just don't symbolically understand what they're seeing on a two-dimensional screen.” Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

“Parents should be wary of educational apps marketed for children 24 months or younger,” pediatrician Jenny Radesky said, because “the science on this says quite clearly that [these] children just don’t symbolically understand what they’re seeing on a two-dimensional screen.” Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Each additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time was linked to a 49 percent increased risk in expressive speech delay. Other forms of communication — gestures, emotions, social eye-gazing — were unaffected.

Birken emphasized that the findings, at this stage, don’t prove cause and effect. That would require a clinical trial where children are randomly selected and tracked throughout childhood.

But this study highlights what could be a life-altering trend for children exposed to too much hand-held screen time because of the value of expressive speech.

“When kids can’t express themselves they get really frustrated,” said Jenny Radesky, a University of Michigan developmental pediatrician who wasn’t involved in the study. “They are more likely to act out more or to use their bodies to try to communicate or use attention-seeking behaviors.”

In the short term, an expressive speech delay can influence a child’s ability to conceptualize words or define their emotions. Though some children who are behind at 18 months or 24 months can eventually catch up, over time, these language delays can impede literacy skills in grade school.

“Early language delays have been linked with later academic problems or not finishing high school,” Radesky said.

Hold the phone — and interact with it too

Last autumn, Radesky’s lab reported that families fret over hand-held screen time for conflicting reasons. They worry their children will miss out on educational opportunities or lack digital literacy without the devices, but wonder if fast-moving technology stifles creativity or displaces family time.

But Radesky, who co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent guidelines for children’s media use, said the problem lies less with mobile devices, and more with how we use them.

“Kids can start to learn language from media, if they’re watching with a parent who then uses the media as a teaching tool,” Radesky said. “Help the child apply it to the rest of the world around them — the way parents often do with a book.”

If parents are introducing young children to mobile technology, they should try and do it in a way that teaches the child to use the device as a tool rather than purely for entertainment. Photo by Tang Ming Tung

If parents are introducing young children to mobile technology, they should try and do it in a way that teaches the child to use the device as a tool rather than purely for entertainment. Photo by Tang Ming Tung

Radesky said that’s tricky because media designers sometimes forget to build content that’s interactive for both a parent and a child. She offered Daniel’s Tiger as a counterexample that hits the mark for teaching social, emotional and language skills with parent-child interactions.

Also, parents should be wary of educational apps marketed for children 24 months or younger, she said, because “the science on this says quite clearly that [these] children just don’t symbolically understand what they’re seeing on a two-dimensional screen.”

Birken’s study didn’t distinguish between whether educational or entertainment media influences the risk of expressive delay, but the trend did hold regardless of income level and maternal education. Her future studies could also look into how parents’ mental health, literacy legacy within a family and access to other caretakers like grandparents factor into the hand-held device usage and language development.

“One of the challenges is the pace of technology is outstripping the pace of research,” Birken said. “It’s a big challenge.”

But Radesky recognizes the allure of passing back a smartphone in a car to placate a child, but if they’re introducing young children to the technology, they should try and do it in a way that teaches the child to use the device as a tool rather than purely for entertainment. Kids can become tech savvy by learning how to find whether their grandma is online on Skype or by taking and sharing funny pictures.

“If they really want to promote some sort of language learning or developmental stimulation, that is always still done best through interpersonal interaction,” Radesky said.


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