Here is a recent email from one concerned mom of a toddler packing possessions and acting a little socially conservative:
I have a rather odd question. My son will be 3 in a couple of weeks, and he has been in a rather finicky stage. He insists on taking something from home wherever we go, whether it be his bug box, a car, or a stuffed animal. I find it interferes with his play. More alarming however, is he says he doesn’t like going to the park because there are too many kids. He stays back, and will only play if I start going up the structure etc, but rarely plays with other kids. Should I be alarmed?
There are really two parts to this question.
Lots of kids do this. Don’t worry about that. You only need to worry about the issues it creates and then determine who is really having the problem? You or he?
How does it interfere with his play? If he plays with his toy and not other children, that is his choice. Often children bring toys hoping to attract friends over to them to see their toys, even if they are not willing to share it once they’ve lured a friend over.
If he asks you to hold it, that is your problem and I advise you to say "no, sorry, that is your toy you brought. Holding it and caring for it is your job." If he leaves it – he looses it. That is his loss. Or, stand and wait by the discarded toy and say "you have a job to do, when I see you have your toy, I’ll know we are ready to go" (of course if he doesn’t want to go this will work in his favour).
I have watched as my kids left things behind. After a few times of them seeing that it is not my job to watch their belongings they get better at assuming their responsibility. If he truly doesn’t care about it, that usually means that either he has too many toys, or you buy him things too frequently so he thinks they’ll be something new again soon enough.
Playing with Others
I’ll bet he is your first born child (the mom confirmed he was). They are typically slower to warm socially. Not because they aren’t social, but because they tend to be more perfectionist and want to "get it right" (mom confirms this is him to a "t"). That means watching the field and knowing all the players before they jump into action. He is also young and most play is "parallel play" where toddlers play "beside" instead of "with" other children.
Advice: Don’t get busy trying to coerce him. If you do he will quickly learn it is a way to involve you, and get attention or concern so he’ll play up his shyness. Instead, let him be, show faith by being okay with his choice to play alone and let boredom and curiousity drive him there. It will come.
If you have a child who is more conservative when it comes to playing in groups or making friends, post your stories for others to hear by adding to the comment field below. I’d love to know if they are also your only children or eldests.