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Finding Ways for My Toddler to Socialize Without Playdates or Moms Group

For the past couple months I’ve felt bad about the lack of toddler playmates my daughter has in her life. It seems like she should be around more kids her age on a regular basis, yet we’ve struggled with this. I hate to think I’m doing her a disservice by being home with her when there is socialization in daycare. Yet, I know me going back to work really isn’t the answer or the solution.

But, every time I get an email newsletter about various toddler-parenting topics and they mention your child’s friends… I’m saddened knowing my daughter doesn’t have friends… through no fault of her own. She’s only a year and a half old and her favorite playmates are my husband and I, but I worry that it’s not enough. She’s so friendly when she encounters other people, especially kids and babies (gosh how she loves babies!), when we’re out and about shopping or dining out.

Mom groups and playdates have been suggested to me in the past and seem to be the solution I keep reading about, but so far those haven’t worked for us. We are down to one car now, so during the week while Brian is at work, we can only access things within walking distance. I already find trying to meet other moms intimidating (why does it get so hard to meet and make new friends as we get older?) and way too much like dating.

Now, I did join a moms group at the beginning of the year. I tried to go to a few meetings and activities and even tried to host a few playdates at my house. Unfortunately, the group was fairly large but cliquey. More than once no one showed up to the activities I planned and the last straw was someone being blatantly rude to me at one of the group member’s activities I was able to borrow the car for. I’ve already been through high school and I don’t care to go back, thankyouverymuch.

The most saddening part to me is I didn’t really care about making new friends for ME. I’m a pretty tolerant person and get along with just about anyone. I just wanted Rissa to have someone to play with!

So, since those routes have yet to work for us… I am doing my best to find other ways to provide Rissa with regular socialization with kids around her age throughout the summer. This week kicks off two of those weekly activities! We started attending storytime at the library. The summer session just started, so that’s once a week and free. I enrolled her in a weekly tumbling class (not free) and she will be having two weeks of swim lessons in July (also not free). I’m hoping these activities may lead to friendships – for her definitely; for both of us, maybe. Even if they don’t lead to anything else, they will give her time around other kids. It’s not free play, but it’s better than nothing, right?

How do you socialize your kids? When did they start having actual friends?



Thursday 7th of December 2017

This post and the comments saved me from having a bad day and being hard on myself all day long. I tried a mom's group that provides nursery during the group. It's the same church we go to with the same nursery. However nursery has...never...been successful for my 2 year old and we've been trying since spring. I got frustrated with him today and felt sorry for myself because "he won't let me socialize".

After reading this post I realized I am the one stressing both of us out. He does great socializing with others of all ages in non forced situations. Lately I have also been stressing about his socialization. I have been considering ECFE and tried my mom's group today. I realized that I need to release myself of the pressure of his socialization. I am a believer so I need to put my faith back in God, but in my son too, that between the two of them they will tell me if he's not growing properly. He's healthy and happy in every other situation except forced social situations, especially when I leave.

Besides, as children, teens, and adults we get to pick and choose who we socialize with, how we do it, and when. Why can't it be the same for our little ones?

Darcy Zalewski

Tuesday 12th of December 2017

I'm so glad you found this post and the comments helpful, Tracy! We feel so much pressure as moms. <3

Lauren Mathiasen

Wednesday 10th of May 2017

I just found this post while doing some research because I am having the exact same problem. Mom groups just aren't working. Can I ask how things went (since you wrote this so long ago)? Any suggestion for a mom with a 19 month-old in this same current situation? Thanks! I'm feeling pretty down and worried I'm not doing enough for my son to help him socialize. I want to put him in pre-school two days a week but there's a wait list and it's so expensive I'm not sure we can afford it.

Darcy Zalewski

Saturday 27th of May 2017

Hi Lauren, thank you for stopping by. I am sorry to hear that local mom groups aren't working for you. I am sure you are doing a fantastic job - you know why? Because good moms worry about these things and seek information and support to provide for our kids.

My kids are now 6 & 4 years old. For a few years, I would go to story time at the library and the park, etc. which would give the kids an opportunity to be around other people even if I wasn't fully engaged with the other parents. Sometimes it felt awkward. But there are lots of opportunities for toddlers to view us modeling socialization and participate in it without it being in a play group. Examples: engaging in conversation at home (you and your son, you and your partner, your son and your partner), spending time with family members, interacting with others at stores, restaurants, etc.

When my daughter was about 2 years old, I enrolled her in dance class. She's naturally more extroverted. I did meet a couple moms there and eventually met a few other moms that I became close friends with. At 3, I did enroll my daughter in preschool because she wanted to go and learn. Now my son, he hasn't been in much other than story time and swim lessons. I did not send him to preschool, but he will begin half day 4k in the fall. He's more introverted but he tags along a lot so he socializes with his sister and her friends too.

If you can find some low cost or free mom and baby/toddler activities (like story time), I think those are a great option! I hope that helps ease your worry and guilt. My kids seem to do well playing with other kids they just met at the playground and my daughter does well interacting with her peers and staff at school. Please email me if you'd like to talk about this more, OK?


Monday 10th of April 2017

Thank you for sharing your heart on this topic. It's comforting to read even years later to this introverted mom of a 17 month old girl. I'm struggling with some of the same worries today, but I'm going to lay those worries down and enjoy living in the moment with my baby. Someday I'll look back and long for all this mommy and baby time I'm sure... Bittersweet. Thank you and I hope you and your family are well.

Darcy Zalewski

Monday 17th of April 2017

I'm so glad to hear you found this helpful and comforting, Shawna! We have so many worries as moms it is a relief whenever we can let some go. My daughter was so little at the time I wrote this, and is 6 years old now and gets along wonderfully with peers at school. :)


Tuesday 28th of February 2017

This thread is pretty old but it eased my mom guilt coming across it. I struggle daily with feeling terrible that my 2 year old has no friends. We have one car and no family and friends close by so daddy and myself are his buddies. I can only take him walking during the week weather permitting. So needless to say he is very shy but otherwise happy. I have felt this preasure to find him a lil friend. Reading some of the post here and what you wrote made me feel a tad better so thank you.

Darcy Zalewski

Tuesday 28th of February 2017

Hi Jen! I am so glad to hear that my post and the comments helped ease your mom guilt. Our kids learn so much from socializing with us as well as observing us with others whether we're talking to friends or a cashier at the grocery store. My daughter is 6 years old now so she is in school and gets together with friends. My 4 year old son has come along for a lot, but I haven't set up playdates specifically for him. I still feel guilty about him sometimes even though I know he gets plenty of social interaction within our family. I am not sure mom guilt ever goes completely away!

Nicole Fonseca

Sunday 22nd of May 2016

Thank u darcy ur article really helped me,

Darcy Zalewski

Sunday 22nd of May 2016

I'm glad to hear this helped you, Nicole! Thank you for reading.