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Why does my toddler ignore playmates? Young toddlers don’t actually ignore one another so much as they have a unique play style that’s different from that of older kids. They may enjoy the company of other toddlers and older children, but playing together doesn’t mean the same thing it will later. Your toddler simply isn’t developmentally ready for that kind of social interaction.

During the first year, most babies are content to sit back and watch other babies and children. Around their first birthdays, although they still love to observe, they’re also developing a more active interest in the toys that others are playing with and the activities they’re engaged in. But toddlers in this age group still aren’t ready to share a truck or roll a ball back and forth. In fact, most children don’t learn to share until about age 3.

Instead, young toddlers engage in parallel play: Seated side by side, they happily pursue their own activities (whether or not it’s the same as what the child right next to them is doing) without interacting with one another. They may not even be interested in playing near one another unless an adult is close by to encourage it. Parallel play is the main way toddlers play together until age 2 or 3.

So when you set up a play date and the toddlers seem to be ignoring one another, don’t count it as a failure. The two are probably having a good time just being close and learning by watching one another. Forcing or even gently encouraging them to do something together isn’t necessary. Actually, the best part of play dates at this age is the chance for the parents to relax together and have a grown-up conversation. You can take advantage of this opportunity to share a few ideas on helping your child develop or even learn something new.