Smile! Coo! Chase! Share! Laugh!
What does socializing look like for little ones? It looks like a good time 🙂
Whether you’re looking to find new friends for your child (or parent-friends!), you’ll start noticing how your little one develops their socialization skills in Zumbini®!
Think back to your first day of school or that time you went to a party when you didn’t know anyone—remembering that feeling of, “Where do I go? What should I do now? Oh, where is someone I know that I can cling to for a bit!”
Young children have similar thoughts when they enter a new place. Some may take a few minutes to warm up, some may cling to you (their trusted rock of strength), and others just run into the room like they own it! All children want to know they are in a safe place, surrounded by familiar faces, and know what is coming up next.
When we respect where each child’s individual comfort level, they will quickly start to open up as they are more and more comfortable with their surroundings; for some, that means 3-4 weeks of class before they walk in on their own or say hello to anyone else, and that is completely fine!
The first time I meet a new child, I try to be really conscious of that child’s body language. If they are coming in for a hug, I’m open-armed. If they are in someone’s arms, shyly smiling, I’ll make eye contact and smile back until they giggle.
And if they are completely tucked away trying to hide into their parent’s body, I say hello, excited they came to class, and a, “Mommy is staying, don’t worry!” And then I give them space. Some kids just need time to adjust without a stranger peppering them with questions about how old they are or what image is on their shirts.
The best way to get to know someone smaller than you is to get on their level. Lay on the floor, crawl around, and squat down. Showing the child that you are equal in wanting to get to know each other will make them instantly more comfortable!
Meeting new children
As you can see from the photos below, babies are naturally curious about other people! They love staring at other faces, touching someone else’s nose, and testing to see what reaction they can create with their movements.
Young babies tend to pull hair and pat others right on the face all the time. Don’t worry; your little one is not being mean or rude; they are genuinely curious about another baby. They want to explore this fascinating stuff growing out of the top of your head. They may be thinking, “You have that cool thing in the middle of your face!” The mamas in the above photos did a fantastic job letting their little ones check each other out during some tummy time while jumping in when the babies became a little feisty.
After a few weeks, the same two babies started showing reactions when the other arrived! They would light up with a smile, coo or yell out, and begin crawling towards each other. They made a friend! From seeing each other week after week in class, they started to realize that this place is where I see my favorite people.
For older children, they may find someone else who also loves to run around like crazy, creating an instant friendship over chasing. Maybe they both love making faces in the mirror. Other children are more reserved, staying close to their parents, but also realize they love patting the drums near other kids. All of these are great examples of early encounters!
Sharing is a super complex topic we, the adults, try to teach and enforce with young children. The idea of something belonging to everyone is just earth-shattering, mind-boggling news to little people.
Maybe you’re familiar with the Toddler Creed?
“If I want it, it’s mine.
If I give it to you & I change my mind later, it’s mine.
If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
If it’s mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
If it looks like mine, it is mine.”
So how do we fairly teach sharing in a large-group setting? Each child receives their own item for activities like scarves and egg shakers. They can choose which one they want and trade with people around them, but ultimately they have something that, for a few minutes, they “own.”
For other activities, like free instrument exploration, the children start learning to be a part of this new sharing dynamic. Some will jump right into the buckets looking for the most interesting item. Others wait and enter more slowly/carefully to find what they are looking for. And almost always, the same toy will be seen by more than one child.
One way to avoid difficulties with sharing is always to have duplicates! If there is a super cool toy, I always make sure to have at least two of the same thing. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t work when 1 of the 2 identical toys is being washed. When this occurs, we try to find something similar (another shaker or tapping instrument) for one of the children to enjoy. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the struggle is real while they wait for their turn.
Usually, this resolves itself pretty quickly as we have lots of fun things to explore, but acknowledging your little one’s feelings at the moment is super important for their own social/emotional growth.
Saying things like, “I know you really wanted the blue maraca that someone else is using. I can see that makes you feel sad. I’m sorry that you feel sad. Would you like to find another blue toy or another colored maraca to play with?” And most times, that is all they need to hear to feel understood, reassured, and ready to play again!
Meeting New People, Big And Small
One of the socialization aspects I love seeing in Zumbini® is how children learn not only from each other but from new adults too. They see new mommies, daddies, grandmas, uncles, etc. Some look the same; many look different from the family members they know.
These little people don’t realize how much they are starting to learn about trusting and loving people from all cultures.
When young children are exposed to different types of languages, skin tones, abilities, ages, and family structures, they are learning this new and different person can also be someone to share joy with as well.
Learning to trust new people is a huge part of young children’s development. By giving them experiences with others who look, sound, or smell different from themselves, they are internalizing new understandings about the people in the world around them.
Thought Zumbini® was just a place to sing and dance?
Now you know lots about the social development we encourage each week as just one of the important components of this class!