Help, my toddler needs social skills.

I am taking on a new endeavor in my life as mother, and indeed in Claire’s life as toddler (though I am loathe to admit she’s a toddler yet): socialization.  Ah, the perils of being a stay at home mommy, and therefore, a stay at home child.  Especially when you’re the first child and have no other play companion than mommy (reason enough right there to try for two kids, if you ask me…).

It became abundantly clear to me last week that Claire needs to be around other children, and yes, away from mommy.  I signed us up for Kindermusik classes, which I had heard good things about and since Claire is obsessed with nursery rhymes and loves to try and sing along with me, it felt like a natural choice in activities for her.  I knew I needed to get her (us) into something to get her out of the house and maybe even meet some other moms for me to befriend.  I said before that even though I’m a mil spouse, I like to make my own friends on my own terms, not always because our husbands happen to work together.  But that’s a topic for another day….

kmusikbanner

We arrived for the music class and it was adorable and full of babies exactly Claire’s age.  The other kids had obviously either been to these classes regularly before, or maybe had siblings or something, because they were running around the room, dancing and playing their little musical sticks and chasing each other.  It was really quite cute and entertaining to watch all their different littler personalities.

But not Claire.  Nope, she was stuck to me like super glue and had this wide-eyed look of being completely overwhelmed.  The poor thing had no idea what was going on, and wouldn’t lose touch of me for one second.

Towards the end of class, which I spent encouraging her to stand up and wiggle, play with her little instruments or sing the nursery rhymes I knew she knew, she warmed up a little bit, but was still very silent and wouldn’t wander far from me.  I considered it a success when she walked up to the basket (many steps away from me) with all the other littles to put her toys away.  She was also upset that I wouldn’t give her her snack cup, because she’s used to getting that any time we are out, which I now realize is something I need to work on not doing (but hey, it keeps her content so mommy can shop.  Feel me?).

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Stock photo – not my class but this was very similar!

So after this experience, I have my new mission.  We are going to Kindermusik every Thursday, and because it’s a little pricey and I don’t want to pay for any other activities, we are starting to go to story time at the local library every Tuesday morning as well.  This is a similar experience, except far less structured, but full of other babies nonetheless, which is what she needs.

It’s so funny that I never considered that being social will take some work and lots of exposure on her part, because she is so silly and full of personality at home.  When we are around other people though, she turns into a clam!  I know it will just take time to get her comfortable, and I’m glad I started doing this now, because I don’t know how long I plan to stay at home all day with her, and I don’t want going to day care to be a huge shock to her system.  Besides the possibility of going to work, I also want her to be used to being cared for by someone other than me or her dad so that we can have date nights that start earlier than after her bedtime.

On that note, I found a very inexpensive gym just down the street from me that has childcare that a friend told me good things about.  I think this is a good way to expose her to a new caretaker, while also learning to be around other babies.  Plus I have been yearning to get back into working out, so it’s a win-win (I hope).  I told my husband that I was really reluctant to do the gym thing because just the thought of leaving Claire at day care and knowing she will panic and be upset at first stresses me out so bad, and he pointed out that I am already stressed and full of anxiety lately anyway (partly due to the fact that I haven’t been exercising, so there you go), so I may as well have something to actually stress about, if I’m going to do it anyway.  Huh.  Maybe he’s right.  I know she needs this, and I know I need an exercise routine to deal with my anxiety, so I gotta do it.  But I’m scared.

Either way, it is hard exposing my daughter to things I know will stress her out a little, but I also know it’s very important to do so in small doses, because it will make her a more well-adjusted child.  I also realize this is only the beginning of teaching my daughter to grow in healthy ways, and it will only get more difficult from here!  So I try to put that into perspective when I think about dropping her off at the gym day care and the melt down I assume will ensue shortly afterward.  No matter, I’ll go sweat out my anxiety in spin class.

If you like the sound of Kindermusik, you should know they are a nationwide program!  You can find one in your area by going here.

Here are some other ideas for activities for little toddlers, if you’re dying to get out of the house and want someone else to entertain your child for a bit.  I plan to try a few in the near future, too:

  • Gymnastics class- check your local gymnastics studio for “mommy and me” classes for toddlers.  There is one near me and that’s next on my list to check out!
  • Story time at your local library (FREE)- I may hate Florida, but the library here is great and has a huge children’s section with separate rooms for story time and activities.
  • Swim lessons – back home we had a phenomenal YMCA that we were members of, and they offered swim lessons as part of the membership.  Here, not so much.  I have heard of infant survival swim classes that teach babies how to float, etc. in case they fall in water, plus it’s never too early to start basic swim lessons!  At Claire’s age, most of them are “mommy and me” which would be a fun bonding activity to do as well (or send dad to the pool and you go get a pedicure.  Both are excellent options).
  • MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers- usually FREE) – this is a Christian-based mom’s group for women to meet up and socialize/bond over being a mom of little ones.  I have never been to a meeting but have heard great things.  They are also a national organization, and you can find a group here.  If there’s not one in your area, you can even start your own!