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Why Toddlers Play Solo

Jillian Mercado and Charlotte Newman, both 20 months, waved like old friends when they passed in the park. But when Andrea Everett, Jillian's mom, set up a playdate for the pair, "they ran right past each other," says Everett, of New York City. "Jillian did her thing and Charlotte did hers, side by side."

That doesn't mean they're antisocial  -- such "parallel play" is normal at this age. "Toddlers aren't capable of any meaningful interaction," says Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of Toddler 411. "They don't have social skills yet." Until the age of 3 or 4, children are usually too busy exploring the world and their place in it to connect with their peers.

No need to skip playdates until preschool, though. Getting your kid out and about has lots of benefits:

* Youngsters watch what others do, so being around new people offers learning opportunities.

* Even if she's not interested in the other toddler in the room, she'll love trying out his toys.

* You'll probably do more socializing at your child's get-togethers than she does, but so what? You deserve playtime, too.

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