Help your tot find her best companion
Splish splash! Bath time may be designed to get little ones clean, but for many mums, it’s also an opportunity to calm fussy lil ones during the witching hour. The key to doing so is ensuring that the entire experience is as comfortable as possible — both for mum and for tot! Dr Navneet Kaur, consultant neonatologist and pediatrician, Apollo Cradle, Mumbai shares tips to give your baby a soothing bath.
Mums are an enthusiastic bunch. We often harbour a rosy picture of picnics in the park complete with a checkered tablecloth, cupcakes and fresh lemonade. We laugh and chat with our mum friends while our kids frolic around merrily, playing games, sharing their toys and enjoying each others’ company thoroughly. But then we wake up and the bubble pops because the reality of playdates with our friends and their kids is not always as we had imagined Toddler friendships are not quite as predictable and easygoing as one would envisioned them to be. A whole lot of factors come into play and if we take some time to understand these we will be equipped to set realistic expectations and also our little ones foster budding friendships.
Development of social skills is a gradual process. Babies love to explore and are not selective about who their friends are. They want to interact with everyone and don’t have one best friend. It’s only after five years that they start developing preferences. As they approach five years, you see more focus and more constructive play. They can play together, understand basic rules of the game and can sit down in one place and concentrate on one activity for a reasonable amount of time. Before this age, they get distracted easily and flit from person to person and from activity to activity. In the age group of zero to six, there is an evolution in the child’s social interactions. Namita Thadani, Coordinator - a Preprimary division of Podar ORT International School, Mumbai gives us general guidelines on what one can expect at each year though it is important to bear in mind that each child develops at his or her own pace: Age 1: He can recognise familiar faces like grandparents and family friends who may visit often. He may make some sound to attract them by squealing or crying. Age 2: Children learn to engage in parallel play. Their social behaviour reflects egocentric thinking. Age 3: Associative play begins and children start looking for a company to play. The concept of sharing has still not developed in them but they may begin to solve conflicts as they want to continue playing with their peers. Introduction of feelings and emotions is great at this age. Age 4: The child has developed basic social skills and understands the concept of sharing and turn taking. The child demonstrates empathy at this age and also loves being independent. Ages 5 and 6: The child is still building social, emotional and thinking skills. However, he may not be able to accept losing a game or take criticism.
Children between the ages of 0 to 5 learn behaviour primarily through observation and imitation. When they are babies, they mainly observe the behaviour of their parents and tend to mimic this so it in at home that the seeds of sharing, friendship and affection are sowed. “Socialization is an important part of a child’s overall development. Although a lot of parents opt for mother-toddler classes nowadays, the child picks up the social cues from the parent,” says Namita. A home environment where parents and other family members share their things freely with each other, where there is an engaging conversation and positive interaction lay the foundation for a socially well-adjusted child. “Teach children to be empathetic and loving by being so ourselves. If a parent raises their voice, hits or shouts at a child, the child is bound to do the same with his peers,” explains Genevieve Jaanam Advani, founder and principal of Early Birds playgroup, Mumbai.
As adults aren’t we selective in who we engage with, who we share with and who we confide in? Sure we are and that is perfectly acceptable. And yet we tend to have lofty expectations of our child talking to and being friendly with any and every other child. Just as we adults are selective about our friendships, children need and deserve the same right to pick their friends. As kids reach the age of 4.5 years, they have the ability to choose their friends and it is vital and we as parents have them the space to do so. “While it is good for your child to be friendly with everyone, please allow him the liberty of choosing who they are comfortable with and who their friends are,” says Genevieve. She stresses that a parent should never force the child to befriend those they want him/her to be
friends with. Friendships will automatically bloom where there is mutual comfort, respect, admiration and shared values.
When we grew up, most of us lived in joint families with multiple kids of different age groups coexisting in the same household. We had siblings and cousins who we played with, squabbled with and shared with. But now many of us have only one child and live in nuclear settings so our kids don’t need to share their toys at anyone. But fortunately, sharing is not something that can be taught, it can only be learnt through observation. In school though, teachers to teach this concept and while this certainly helps, children will automatically start sharing as they grow and as the comfort level grows. Counselling psychologist Habiba Kudrati suggests that it is important to understand the inherent personality of each child and to explore the world through their eyes. “Don’t expect a picture perfect child. Some kids are introverts while others are go-getters. Accept the child as he is,” she says. She recommends telling stories about friendship and sharing but without stressing the moral - the moral will automatically become a part of their system. Moreover, she stresses that moral qualities have to exhibited by the parents first. Adults also won’t sacrifice and compromise with unknown people. Similarly with children too, as they play with and get to know the other child, they will automatically share their toys without adult prompting.