As you sit and observe a room full of toddlers interacting, it is easy to see how naturally self-centered children of this age can be. Between the shouts of "Mine!" and the cries of a two-year-old who wanted the red ball and not the blue, the scene can begin to mimic an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. You may want to avoid having a self-focused diva on your hands and begin incorporating activities that promote caring and cooperation. This will not only teach your little one some much-needed life skills, but also help preserve some of your sanity during social situations.
1. Modeling Caring Behaviors
Toddlers imitate the things they observe, so instead of channeling your inner diva, try modeling a caring attitude. Role playing this characteristic will give your toddler an example of what this looks like. Pretend play with your child and show them how to act during certain situations. A two-year-old may not understand the need to show compassion for a friend who just fell off the slide, but with a few examples, he will easily pick up on this skill. Reenacting these events may force you to bring out your childish side, but that's OK.
2. Magazine Search
Want to help your toddler recognize the emotions of others? To become caring, they must first learn to see and think of others' feelings. Gather some magazines (preferably not your stack of Cosmos) and look through the pictures with your little ones. Discuss with them how they think the person is feeling and why they might be feeling that way. Relate the feeling to a certain situation, such as, "Sad is how John was feeling when you wouldn't let him play with your toy train."
3. Modeling Cooperation
Arrange opportune times to model and practice cooperation. Spend a little time playing board games, while verbalizing that "Yes, you do have to wait your turn." Put an apron on your little chef and let him pitch in while you make dinner. As he throws spaghetti noodles into the pot (and hopefully not onto your walls), he will be learning to cooperate in a way that benefits the entire family.
4. Cooperation Games
If you have a group of toddlers, play cooperative games such as keeping a balloon in the air, or trying to put a pile of scarves in a laundry basket. When it's time to clean up all the toys after a play date, why not make the task easier on yourself by enlisting the help of children? You'll be surprised at how simple tasks like tidying up a room can become fun to your child if you make it a cooperative game that you both need to complete quickly.
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