Why Isn’t My 2-Year-Old Playing with Her Peers?

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Learning how to play is serious work for the littles. Some kids figure out how to play and connect with their peers without their parents even realizing it’s happening. It’s tough though if your kiddo doesn’t seem to be progressing in their social skills as fast as their peers…. That’s when the mom guilt starts to kick in (or so I hear…. my baby isn’t due for a few more months 🙂 So what about your 2-year-old? 
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Does it seem like your child is just watching other kids play and not joining in? Deep breath, it’s okay. For kiddos 2-2.5 years old, the typical stage of play is “Spectator Play.” Spectator play is the typically considered the beginning stage of play development and it’s when your cute munchkin is starting to really notice other children. It's called spectator play because your child is literally just watching other children play. Just like a fan in the stands at a football game. When a child is only watching their peers play, it always makes my heart hurt a bit because they appear isolated. While I do feel a bit sad, I myself have to recognize that it's a stage. If your child is older than three, I would be more concerned that they're only watching their peers play, but keep in mind that this is part of the natural progression of your 2-year-old's play development. Curious about how you can help your child when she’s in the stage of spectator play? Use narration to help your child be more aware of her peers.

The In’s & Out’s of Using Narration

Narration is a game of ‘watch and learn.’ Help your child draw her attention to her peers and talk about what they’re doing. Remember the sports analogy about your child as a spectator in the stands? Well, every sport has a sportscaster that narrates and in this scenario that is you. So if you're at the park and your child is watching some children play tag, you would narrate what's going on by saying something like "Those kids are playing tag. The boy running is 'it' and he's trying to catch the other kids. That looks like fun!"  When you provide that sports cast, you're drawing your child's attention to their peers, explaining what they're playing and how the game works.

Does this feel a little familiar? Listening and watching is how we, as adults, often initially learn new skills whether we're watching a professor write an equation on the whiteboard or discreetly listening to a conversation to try to learn someone's name. Narration could be a bit familiar too because it’s a Listening and Spoken Language strategy.

Want to know a few more tricks about developing your child’s play and social skills?

Peruse over and check this out. 

Citations Brown, P., Remine, M., Prescott, S. & Rickards, F. (2000). Social interactions of preschoolers with and without impaired hearing in integrated kindergarten. Journal of Early Intervention, 23: 3, 200-211. Fung, W. & Cheng, R.W. Early Childhood Educ J (2017) 45: 35. doi:10.1007/s10643-015-0760-z Parten, M.B. (1933) Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.

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