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Toddler Activities that Enhance Social Development

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated June 13, 2017

Social development is an important part of being a toddler because it guides how young children interact with the people around them. It allows them to form relationships with others and behave in appropriate ways. One way toddlers learn is through play. Introduce a few social activity games and activities into the day and the toddlers in your care will begin to learn what they need to know to be able to engage with others.

Sweep Up Some Skills

Teach toddlers how to do simple chores or pretend to do simple chores to help them engage with one another, as well as learn how to help. Provide a child-sized broom to one toddler and a dust pan to another toddler. Allow them to work together to sweep the floor. Fill a trash bag with stuffed animals or other soft toys and encourage two toddlers to work together to tie the bag and pretend to take out the trash. Teach toddlers to work together to pick up toys and sort them into appropriate bins. Encourage and model conversation to help them accomplish their task.

Pass the Veggies

Eating a meal, or pretending to eat a meal, is a healthy way to encourage social development among toddlers, Janette B. Benson and Marshall M. Haith report in their book, "Social and Emotional Development in Infancy and Early Childhood." Set up a lunch table family style so toddlers can practice passing foods to one another. Fill several bowls with cooked pasta, finely chopped fruits and vegetables or halved sandwiches. Show toddlers how to pass the bowls around the table so everyone can take what they would like. Model appropriate manners, including how to say please and thank you, as they share the meal. Play food works well for this activity as well.

Ring Up Social Skills

Set up a play store area to help toddlers learn how to select items and pay for them. Toddlers will also get a chance to pretend to be a cashier. Place toy food on an empty bookshelf and provide toddlers with toy shopping carts. Use a toy cash register with play money so the cashier can mimic ringing up the food and provide the shopper with a total and possibly a pretend receipt. Model to toddlers how to ask for help finding an item and how to thank the cashier. Demonstrate to the cashier how to tell shoppers to have a nice day and to come again soon.

Team Up for Treasure

A team treasure hunt teaches social development by encouraging toddlers how to talk and solve a problem so they can reach the prize. Hide a small prize in a classroom or outdoor area and then separate the toddlers into teams of two or three. Give the toddlers clues about where the treasure is hidden and then encourage them to work together to figure out where to look. Teach toddlers how to give praise to one another and how to offer encouragement as they try to find the prize.

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