Pretend play is an important milestone in a 2-year-old's social development.

Social Development of a 2-Year-Old

by Jennifer Brozak

You may think that the extent of your child's social interaction is screaming "Mine!" anytime someone reaches for his favorite toy. However, even at this young age, your child is working on developing his social skills. Even when he refuses to share, sings the same song 30 times in a row or mimics your behavior, he is learning valuable skills that promote healthy social development, and there are milestones you can look for to be sure he is heading in the right direction.

1. Learning

By the time your child is 2, she may go from playing with books as objects to wanting you to actually read them to her. She may even try to "read" them to you as she thumbs through the pages. She's begun to actively seek interaction with you, and this is an important milestone in a toddler's social development. Spending time reading is not only an excellent way to bond with your child, but it also promotes the development of language and lays the groundwork for future social interactions. The same goes for her time spent singing, drawing and even trying to write. These activities are all essential to your child's social development, as they are building blocks to learning and understanding language which, in turn, will facilitate your child's social interactions with others.

2. Sharing

Sharing is a foreign and unwelcome concept to 2-year-olds, who tend to believe that the universe exists solely to satisfy their own needs and wants. While this may seem selfish to adults, it’s actually a normal phase of toddlerhood. It also provides you with an opportunity to teach your young one proper social interaction by consistently encouraging him to share, even though he won’t fully understand the concept until he’s a little older. Just remember that at this age, his reasoning skills are not fully developed and trying to reason with him may be ineffective.

3. Playing

At this age, children haven’t quite mastered how to play with other children, but they do play alongside them, which is an important stepping stone to learning how to play with other children. Do not let this behavior discourage you from having play dates with other children. As your toddler inches closer to age 3, she will begin to interact more with the other children and will continue to improve her social skills.

4. Mimicking

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but you may not feel that way when your toddler imitates you. Imitation and pretending are important activities for many 2-year-olds, as they help them to understand social norms and empathy, and they are going to look to you to set the example. You will be his first role model, which means he will be mimicking actions and words -- both good and bad. Demonstrate the social skills you want your child to have, and those will be what he imitates.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

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