Whether you’re a fan of coffee mornings, sports clubs, language classes or dinner parties, we all have our own ways of being social. I choose rock climbing, at least when the draw of curling up on the sofa with my other half doesn’t win me over! No matter what your preference for company or personal space, humans are social by nature.
It makes sense then that our interactions play a vital part in the running of society and the world around us, but let’s not get into politics! Closer to home, they make up the basis of family life. Smiling and waving, cooing and conversations, snuggles and play time – it all feeds into your little one’s development.
Although these practices vary between cultures, they’re all a part of socialising the new addition to your family. Whether by picnics and parties or sing songs and shopping, it’s crucial to expose your little one to lots of new experiences. Essentially you’ll be the Yoda to their Luke Skywalker or the Madame Gazelle to their Peppa Pig.
the importance of being social
From the moment you hold your baby, you begin to teach them the patterns of behaviour which will shape them as they grow. It’s like the first block of their Lego® tower that makes the groundwork upon which everything else gets built! You’re setting them up with the skills and habits necessary for them to become a part of society.
Some babies will be bubbly from the off with a keenness to explore and meet new people. Other young tots may prefer to view the action from a safe distance and in the comfort of your arms. Either way, building their self-assurance is a crucial part of socialisation.
With a little confidence under their belt (or bodysuit), your babe will find it easier to learn and be open to the new experiences around them. It also helps to reduce their anxiety when apart from you, be it for a moment as you make a brew or longer. This paves the way for starting day care where they will make friends and learn to play with others.
nature versus nurture
Whether we straighten our hair or wear coloured contacts, those frizzy curls and dark brown eyes are a part of who we are – they’re in our DNA! However, the origins of other traits aren’t as well-established. Cue the age-old debate.
For years, psychologists have discussed (and often argued) about whether our behaviours are inherited or learned. It’s a battle of genetics versus environment with no current winner to claim the overall title. On one side, if we get our parent’s physical traits then it makes sense that we could inherit parts of their personality too.
On the other hand, we are not fully formed when born and have a lot to learn. As such, how could we expect that the world around us wouldn’t have an impact on how we interact and behave? Sometimes, like being in between bickering children, it’s best not to take sides as to which is more important. Both nature and nurture have a role to play in who we are and for the purposes of this blog at least, we’ll leave it at that.
getting the ball rolling
So how should you set about socialising your precious little babe? Whether you literally get the ball rolling during playtime with friends or only take the phrase metaphorically, there’s plenty you can do to build up their social skills.
You can start small (just like their tiny toes) by smiling when they smile at you. It’s as simple as that. Beaming back at their joyful expressions helps to make their world feel like a friendly and safe place, and to build a sense of trust. When they burble at you, take that as a cue to start a conversation and give them time to respond to what you say. Though they may shout over you when they’re older, at least they’ll know how turn-taking is supposed to work!
As they grow and you slowly expand their social circle, encouragement is key. They will look to you for reassurance, even when they’re happy. Begin with a couple of your nearest and dearest, then those with babies of a similar age. While they might not be old enough to play together just yet, they’ll certainly watch and learn from each other.
the great outdoors and beyond
When both you and baby are up for a little adventure, the great outdoors awaits. A bit of shopping here and a parents’ picnic there will keep you feeling social and sincerely welcome your little one into the world. There’s also plenty of mum-and-baby classes that offer opportunities for new experiences, stimulation and so much more.
Though it may be bittersweet to see your little one become less dependent on you, it’s also rewarding to see them strive forward with everything they’ve got. Soon you’ll be holding their hand while they toddle, just as you support them through their social and emotional development. They may grow up fast, but they need your help all the same.