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When she's at home with family members, she's fine and happy - crawls on the mat , plays with toys, smiles, etc. When we take her to a Gymboree class, where kids are free to climb and play with all the ramps/mat/stairs/toys, she just watches and won't play. She cried the first time we took her there, but now she's no longer crying. Yet while all 20 other kids her age are climbing/clapping/playing happily, she just sits there and watches. When we try to put her belly down on a matt to get her to crawl (which she does happily at home), she would moan nervously and resist. She's literally the quietest and most nervous kid out there, even compared to many who are younger than she is.

Is she just extra sensitive and shy in nature? What can we do to help her be come outgoing?

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I think Willow's answer is great, but isn't 8.5 months a bit early to start worrying about how outgoing your child is?

Gently encourage her, just like Willow says. But I'd ask myself where that wish for her to be more outgoing came from. I mean, at 8.5 months old, she probably doesn't mind at all that she doesn't play while the other kids do. You say she just watches. So why not just let her watch and give her some time? It's not like she's six and a social outcast in her peer group even though she wants to play with the others, right? At 8.5 months, wanting her to be more outgoing is your wish, not hers. Give her a some time. If she is your first child, don't worry too much. You can and should encourage her, but from my experience with my own kids, kids start doing things exactly when they're ready to do them, not before.

Drives me crazy sometimes. Hard to bear as a parent, but I guess that's part of the job.

  • I think your answer is great, too. – WRX Jun 2 '17 at 19:54
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I think you might consider a smaller, less chaotic group until your child has the opportunity to accustom herself to other children.

  • Invite one or two other children over to your home, and let her play in that group. (Babies this age do not play with each other.) She can become used to being in a small group in a familiar environment.
  • Visit with the same sized group in other homes. Try not to hover. You do not want your daughter fearful or truly distressed, but you do not want to overprotect her either. As she becomes accustomed to these groups, add in another child or two to an already familiar environment.
  • Find a quiet larger group -- like a reading to babies library group. Ask Library Staff if there is a play period before or after and don't attend that part until your daughter seems relaxed at the library and comfortable.
  • Introduce your daughter to different environments in a safe way. Grocery stores, the park, museums, botanical garden or the zoo are all places that allow strollers (her safe place) but allow her to observe and involve herself as she wishes.
  • Reintroduce Gymboree at a time of day that is less busy and work your way up to the same group.

I'd get started on this before you put her in daycare. I can't say what is exactly happening with your child, but many kids balk at changes to environment and noise or chaos. If you can be proactive without being too protective -- that balance will help you to help her gain confidence.

Shyness is a trait. There is nothing wrong with being shy. Dr Sears has an article here: Among other things he suggests:

To cure the shyness, you must build up the self-esteem. This child needs parents he can trust, who discipline in a way that does not lead to internalized anger and self-dislike.

Self-esteem is built up by encouragement and appreciation. Giving even a very young child choices (you pre-select -- there can be no 'mistake') and then letting her know she made a right choice. This also builds language. "You chose the bear." "You chose the red block. Good for you!"

My aunt 'taught' three of her four children to swim by throwing them into the deep end of the pool. The fourth never swam again and is still terrified of water fifty years later. Pushing children into things that they are not ready for doesn't make it work. Some do manage but sometimes it makes the situation worse -- it's a crap shoot. One size does not fit all and there's nothing wrong with taking a gentle approach while still helping her to do it on her own.

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Introversion is okay; it was also the subject of a TED talk. But if you really want an extroverted child, it has to just happen on its own --- the way a properly breast-fed newborn is allowed to crawl from the top of the mother's belly to latch on to the nipple. Set an example by strengthening your relationship with hobbies, ideas, and nature, and a social life will improve on its own.

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