as a mate for her elder sister, and from her birth they have been like two peas in a pod - even though they are 17 months apart in age. It is so pleasurable to see them sharing and playing happily together most of the time, and to think that they will surely grow up to be best friends for life.
By the age of about 18 months, toddlers will happily begin to integrate with other children of a similar age. The ease with which they do this depends on many things, such as their level of independence, their communication skills, whether they have siblings themselves, and just their basic shyness. Any young child can only relate with intimacy to a very small number of people and since children are so fickle and detached in their early social relationships, they are not likely to "miss" regularity or consistency with "friends" of their own age until much older, so don't be worried if they / you haven't collected 10 friends to invite to their first birthday party! In small families, those with greater spacing between siblings, or those who are geographically isolated, many parents are concerned their young children will miss out on group dynamics. But this does not really need to come into play until the year before primary school age.
As soon as your child starts to enter realms of influence outside of your own immediate family, that is social relationships, they will start to explore and challenge the ways in which you have brought him up. Like all human relationships, their contact with other kids will be both a boon and a curse - for them and you! Whilst it is good and necessary that they have a cross-section of different social interactions, they can also pick up a range of behaviours that are far from desired or acceptable in their own family. If their friends are more mature, they will absorb some of that. If their friends are more babyish, they can come home somewhat regressive! But either way, socialisation is a whole new ball game.
Often, the first friends your child makes are the children of parents with whom you are most friendly. Here, modes of parenting, and hence a child's way of relating to others, is more likely to be similar to yours. However, difficulties in child to child relationships can arise through frequent contact with other children in places like child-care centres, pre-schools or playgroups, where other parents (and their children) may have less in common with your way of childrearing. Whilst this is a good preparation for children to learn acceptance and
understanding of others in our society,
more than just the chances of catching anti-social behaviours, is the potential for catching illnesses and diseases.
Childcare centres are known to be the most highly contagious venues for illness in our society - second only to hospitals! Always make a point of asking other parents or childcare workers if any of their children are currently (or have recently had) any illnesses. If so, play it safe and keep your kids away. The discomfort and disruption brought about from something picked up is far, far greater than the loss of social contact or short term personal sacrifice of keeping them away. I always apply the same rules to myself, and that is, if my children are snotty or sick in any way, they shouldn't be spreading it around through contact with other kids. But the truth is, there would not be a childcare group in the country where at least 3 out of 10 children are not sick on any particular day. If your child is regularly coming down with things, you may need to look at whether these situations might be the cause.
A young child will always end up more tired from a play session with a number of other kids. They may come home full of beans, but will always sleep very deeply after a day of big challenges to their consciousness. It therefore helps them if they have early nights before and after periods away from their home and with other children.
I have previously recommended that a mother only take advice about babycare and childrearing from other women whose children she feels reflect a well-balanced upbringing. When out, socialising your baby with others, if you come into contact with other babies or older children displaying less than desirable behaviour, do not be embarrassed about either removing or disciplining your own child if they imitate. Disciplining your own child, at someone else's house, in public, or when another child comes to visit yours, should always remain consistent. And when there are several children at your house, the same "rules", "guidelines" or "behaviours" (if that is what you run by) should be applied to all the visitors, just as you would expect someone else to do for your child in their house. Otherwise, if you are too polite or hold back upon the visiting child, your own child will soon detect two sets of allowable behaviours in your house and begin to challenge you with the old - "But you let Jimmy do that when he was here yesterday". As well, Jimmy needs to learn to respect the behaviours of other households, just as you would teach your child to respect those he visits. Unrelenting consistency