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I have a 22-month old boy who is currently an only child. He's a very smart, outgoing child who has never shown any sort of developmental issues. He enjoys books and music, has an amazing memory, and is speaking in long phrases and sentences.

Both I and my wife work full time, and until recently our child spent his weekdays with his grandma.

None of our nearby relatives have kids in his age range, and he hasn't had that much interaction with children his age. 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.

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).

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.

Some of this certainly seems attributable to being abruptly put in this new situation with new people, but it is a tad worrying to me (and our daycare provider is clearly concerned).

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?

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    We ended up having some issues with the woman running the first daycare. We're now with a different provider and he's much happier and more social. I'm sure having more time to adjust helped, but I also suspect our original provider was the cause of much of his uneasiness. – sjohnston Jan 11 '12 at 18:17
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I think its also proper to set expectations, many 2 year olds while they "play" tend to do so in parallel not with a lot of interaction. So you may want to be careful in what you expect, so you don't see something that is not there. Significant change is also something to aware of, as Torben notes, and will definitely influence young children who have sudden shifts in schedule. Maybe you or your wife sit with him after drop off to help him adjust, so he knows you are there and make him more comfortable.

Otherwise look for local playgroups, or activities in the local library or your local rec-hall to try and meet other local parents so you can get more interaction and have some more meetups with children his age.

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    +1 for noting that toddlers do more "parallel play" rather than "play together". – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 20 '11 at 15:00
  • It is absolutely normal for a kid not to interact at this age. +1 No need for this mom to worry about it at all. Yet, you do point out that significant changes are something to remain aware about. Great answer. – balanced mama Nov 16 '12 at 17:39
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I can imagine that he's feeling uneasy at being moved from his grandma and dropped into full-time daycare that abruptly.

Usually, you'd start daycare just a few hours a day and gradually increase to full time. I understand that with evebody working full-time as well, it's hard or impossible to provide a transition phase.

I think two weeks is not enough time for him to adjust to this big change in his life. Give it some more time, and try to provide extra attention whenever you can.

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Also, aside from the general considerations mentioned by MicharlF and Torben, it might also be that you have a typical geeky child.

Some people are NEVER comfortable around new persons, at 2, 3, 4 or even 30.

Our oldest didn't start being decently social until ~4 YO (he went to preschool at 3), and even now gets a bit shy around new kids. Which seems perfectly fine to me since I was that way in his age and STILL am exactly the same way. Might be some correllation betwen that and my reputation on StackOverflow and SciFi SE :))). Not everyone is born to be a social animal.


One interesting indicator is how your child is around OLDER kids. Ours for some reason really liked playing with some 7-10 year old kids in our neighbourhood (thankfully they for some reason enjoyed playing with him once in a while).

One possible explanation (if he's OK with new adults but not kids) is that adults go out of their way to be nice/friendly to him, whereas other 2 year olds don't work that way. They may not necessarily be hostile, but the won't always TRY to be friendly/welcoming, and will possibly compete for toys. That's why older 7-10 year olds are a good test - they are already old enough to eliminate "not-old-enough-to-be-nice" factor.

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My advice after growing up as a precocious child and then raising one:

Your son is used to conversing with adults. Now you have put him with children who are his age but are basically non-verbal. It's no surprise he doesn't engage with them. They can't understand him and literally have nothing to say. His reaction is the same as yours would be if you were placed in a home for adults with senile dementia. You probably wouldn't be terribly social either.

My daughter was also quite verbal before her second birthday and was just as uninterested in the other children at a church-run day care. This did not surprise me, but there are few to no programs for precocious toddlers. A month before her fifth birthday she entered a selective pre-K and on the first day was happily chattering away with her classmates.

If you would like to give your son a chance to learn social skills, find a group of children his age that he can relate to. If that's impossible, then when he gets a bit older he may enjoy activities with mixed age groups -- martial arts, mind games like chess and bridge come immediately to mind. Team sports could be good if they are well-coached.

The last bit of advice is if it's offered, do not accelerate his progress through elementary or middle school. This is a disaster for boys, particularly if they are of less than average height. Instead try to place him in classrooms that are able to engage him.

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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.

Or:

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.

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