We've tried a couple baby/toddler groups through the local school district, and he's encountered children in public places like the park and play areas with some frequency. We're friends with another couple who has a daughter a couple months younger, but we only see them one evening every month or two.
From my own childhood I remember needing hours to start being even visible to other children and another hour to start interacting with them, although I went to kindergarten every work day. The point is: Children need time to adjust to new environments and new other children. The other children are total strangers at first and will remain more or less strangers, if the child only sees them once a month.
Recently, grandma decided to go back to work full-time. We put our child in a home daycare with a woman who takes care of her own son and one other boy (18 months and 24 months).
A completely new environment.
It's been almost two weeks now, and he doesn't seem to be adjusting. Our provider says he appears anxious during much of the day. He watches the other boys, but never really interacts or plays with them. She tells us that keeping music on does help him relax somewhat, but he's still very clingy to adults, and he tends to cry if left alone with the other two boys, even for a moment.
I guess that could be the feeling of being "the new one" already, being added to a group, but not knowing how to make contact and be "part of the group". Maybe the same feeling I had every morning in kindergarten.
How worried should I be? Should I just continue to give him time to adjust? Should we be actively seeking more opportunities to have him interact with kids? Do I need to discuss this with our pediatrician?
It might be too early to diagnose anything, but I am not a child psychologist and they might see things differently. Yes you should seek more opportunities. The child must overcome this social barrier of being the new person in a group, not only with other children, but also later in life. If this builds up, your child could be looking at a sad childhood with social phobia being an everyday companion. I highly doubt the pediatrician is qualified to assess the situation. It is not their job. They might tell you something generalized about young children and the possibility of all of it changing later on. Of course it could, but you should look out how this behavior develops and maybe at an age of 5 or 6 years take a step back and look at the big picture. Does the child connect with other children then? If the situation is somewhat similar to now, please go to a child psychologist and let them help. Not fighting a developing social phobia can lead to serious issues later in life. I am talking from my own experience here. My parents never deemed it necessary to have me checked. Because of my social phobia I lost so many opportunities and did not experience many of the things, which are considered normal for many children and youngsters, it is really sad, how I did not have all of that, just because of something, that should have been fought way earlier. Instead my parents simply thought stuff like:
He's simply shy. It will go away when he is older.
He is simply a quiet one, who likes different things than other children.
And that for more than 20 years. They did not take a step back and really see how much I suffered from it over the time of my childhood. They did not see the kinds of experiences I never made, not being able to express my emotions properly, not being able to talk to that girl I liked, not being able to reach for opportunities, because of low self-confidence.
I wish they had been more knowledgeable about psychology, instead of writing it of as a minor issue.
Not all was bad. They did support my hobbies.
Please don't make the same mistake and let your child suffer through their childhood. It has serious consequences even for adulthood.
I am not saying you should not let your child read the books or do things alone. Children should be encouraged to develop their mind and talents. Just be very aware of situations where your child chooses solitude rather than interaction and check if phobia could be the issue.