As you have read, my wife and I are really eager to help foster the outgoing nature of the little guy, and we often encourage him to interact with people when he connects with them (usually by staring at them until they notice, and then smiling when they smile). We like it when other people hold him and play with him, too, both of us being of the philosophy that the more different people he plays with and who hold him, the better it will be for him.
But what about his peers, the other babies of the same age? It is difficult (especially being new in a city) to find those children, and the parents, who feel it is important to socialize their little ones. We found one couple who is really nice and have a child very close in age to the little guy. We share a few things in common, and the singular thing we have in common is the need to socialize our babies, in addition to the importance of socializing ourselves as parents. So we have hung out a few times now, and I look forward to the next time.
How do you “do” baby socialization (AKA a “play date”)?
At first it is a little weird because you are getting to know each other their babies. But after a while you can start to see the way the other parent interact, and you can “mirror” this when you talk to their little one. Then, there’s the matter of how to get the little ones playing. To me it is just about the two of them getting comfortable with each other in their “personal bubble” for a while. They spend all this time alone with their own toys and their own parents and caregivers that they need to just get comfortable with another person being in that bubble. Then, eventually after a while, they will naturally start playing together.
Why should you socialize your baby?
I have a set of friends who were so worried about their baby getting sick that they did not have any kind of play dates or have their little one meet anyone besides them and close family for the first year. This is an interesting approach, and one that my wife and have obviously not chosen to go with. We are less worried about the little guy getting sick from other people (he has to develop his immunity, after all), and we believe you should socialize your baby because it is vital for how they learn to communicate and interact with others. Of course there is likely a lot of research on the topic to find out there.
In Sweden they have a thing called Öppna Förskolkan (open preschool) in many communities that meet for 3 hours a day – the parents can come and play and sing with their little ones with other parents. In my wife’s hometown, there is a different location sponsoring the gathering every day (a church center on mondays 9-12, a different community center on tuesdays 9-12, and so on). I attended one while we were back in Sweden, and it was really good to see the other children and their curiosity, but also to see how they approached and interacted with the little guy.
Lots of important things to keep an eye on as parents, but I think socializing through simply meeting with other parents and children is one of those things that is both good for the little one, but also for you.