Parenting In a Pandemic Activities Social Life

Your toddler learns a lot from social activities. Playing with and talking to others is an important part of early child development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a temporary halt to the kind of socializing you might have otherwise done outside of your home. Many in-person toddler classes and group activities—music classes, soccer, gymnastics, library story times and more—have been suspended to avoid contributing to the spread of the virus. Playdates with other toddler friends in your home or theirs are also not advised, for the same reason.

So how do you help your toddler stay connected?

First, remember that babies and toddlers get most of their socialization from their family at home. You are your child’s favorite playmate and confidante. But you are also important for bringing structure and routine to your toddler’s day. Having a set schedule for meals, naps, baths and bedtime helps keep things running smoothly.

Try these tips for keeping your child socializing and connected:

  • Set up activities—a toy corner, Play-Doh or crayons and paper at the table, etc.—that your child can do with you and also on his or her own.
  • Keep a running conversation with your toddler throughout the day about what you’re doing or seeing together at home, in the car or on a walk.
  • Set aside time to play together every day, giving your child your undivided attention and letting him or her take the lead.
  • Read picture books to your child every day. Point out and name objects and characters in the pictures; let your child decide when to turn the pages. Have other family members living with you also read to your toddler.
  • Get outside together to explore nature, pointing out flowers, leaves, pinecones, birds, squirrels and other animals you may see.
  • When out in public, you can still interact with people. Wear a mask (your toddler, too, if age 2 or older). Keep a social distance of 6 feet from others and avoid crowds or large gatherings. But encourage your child to join you as you wave or say 'hi' to others you see on walks or errands.
  • Look for parent-child classes or groups that may have moved online. These virtual get-togethers can be enjoyable for both of you.
  • Call family members regularly—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—using the phone or video chat. Put your child on the phone or in front of the video screen. A relative could read your child a story, lead the child in a song or play peek-a-boo via video.
  • Video chat with friends and their children so your toddler can interact with other kids.
  • Be mindful of how much TV your child is watching these days. Sometimes you need your child occupied so that you can get something done. That's OK, but don’t let TV be the constant in your child’s life. Try to limit screen time to less than 2 hours a day.
  • Teach your child to help you with simple chores—placing napkins on the table, helping you put groceries or laundry away.
All of these activities help expand your toddler’s language, communication, cooperation and other social skills. Eventually, all of the other activities you cannot do now will be available again. In the meantime, your toddler can get a lot out of socializing with you!

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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