Your Toddler’s Growing Appreciation of His Community

Your Toddler’s Growing Appreciation of His Community

Your 2- to 3-year-old child is beginning to understand her different roles in the community. Your child’s a daughter or son or a grandson or granddaughter, and may also be a sister or brother, a cousin, and a friend. She’s also noticing the roles of other people. These are some of the benefits of repetitive behaviors and experiences, which are helping with her understanding and Appreciation of Community.

Pioneering educator, John Dewey, found that it is important for children to learn from the familiar experiences of daily life.1 As such, your child will begin to recognize the different people and places2 she sees on a regular basis, like her teacher, her babysitter, the checker at the local grocery store, her playmate’s house, or her favorite park. You may see her get excited as you drive down Grandma’s street or call out as you pass by the neighborhood library you visit together every week.3 As she matures into a toddler, her understanding of community and social roles will become an increasingly important part of her early learning and the development of her Self-Concept.

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Your child’s Appreciation of Community and the learning of social studies centers on her understanding of society and her role within it. From birth, young children learn about their world by observing their environment and making sense of it. As they interact with their families at home, friends and caregivers at daycare, and community members in the neighborhood, they eventually come to identify themselves as citizens of society.2,4

Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky held that social learning is the primary way young children learn from birth.5 From exchanging her first smiles and coos with her parents to journeying through the places you go together in the course of daily life, children are constantly learning about society and their role within it. While much of your child’s early social learning derives from family life,5 she will find her role within the larger community as she spends more time outside the home.4

If your toddler goes to preschool or daycare, she will be able to practice citizenship in a smaller, more controlled, and more interactive environment. She’ll also find these benefits in the active “play” opportunities of early childhood exercise classes and activities, such as “mommy and me” classes, cooperative play groups, and public playgrounds. According to American psychologist Jaak Panksepp, “Without play, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other cognitive functions may not mature properly.”7 Allowing your child to take part in the normal, everyday functioning of society will better prepare her for different social situations as she grows, letting her develop important socio-emotional life skills, such as Self-ControlExpressing EmotionsEmpathy of Others, and Cooperation.8

So go ahead and involve your child with the activities and routine tasks that take place in the community. Let her hear you make polite conversation with the store clerk, watch you exchange greetings with the mailman, say hello to the policeman at the park, and hold the door for a stranger when you’re out at lunch. The more time she spends observing you and being part of the community at large, the more she will understand the rules–written and unwritten–we live by in order to maintain civility and harmony. By letting your toddler interact with her community, you will help develop her Appreciation of Community by building her Self-Concept and understanding of social conventions and rules.

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Play Tips:

Do you want to know how you can support your child’s development of Appreciation of Community skills at this age? It’s easy! Read on for some simple tips to incorporate into your daily play time together.

  1. Let your child participate in social situations on a regular basis. Some parents enroll their children in a daycare or preschool, while others join cooperative play groups with their young children. Regardless of your choice, understand that by allowing your child to practice being social, you are giving her a learning advantage.
  2. Model appropriate social behavior. When interacting with your toddler or others, be sure to practice manners, patience, turn taking, politeness, helpfulness, and cooperation. Say please and thank you, share easily, and admit when you’ve made a mistake. The best way to teach her is by example.
  3. Engage your toddler in social behaviors.3 When you are going about your daily work, have your child help you. Let her place vegetables in plastic bags at the store, put the mail in the mailbox, help you sweep the front walk, or help you change her baby sister. Provide opportunities for her to play with other children of all ages, one-on-one and in groups, to build her social skills.
  4. Read stories with real-world connections.3,9 Reading about different people found within the community, including construction workers, policemen, firemen, postmen, barbers, and grocery store clerks, is a great way to build your child’s Appreciation of Community and expand her ideas of how people fit into the social fabric of her community. Discuss what these people do for the community and how they may also have different roles and identities within their own families and friends.2 To deepen her understanding about how the world connects to daily life, discuss other aspects of social studies, including “food, clothing, shelter, childhood, money, government, communication, family living, or transportation.”4

Developmental Milestones:

Has your baby achieved the following Appreciation of Community developmental milestones yet? If yes, check off all the skill(s) she has already mastered to date using Playful Bee’s developmental milestones tracker. It’s absolutely FREE and easy to use, just click HERE!

  • Recognizes frequented places and familiar people.
  • Assists in location-appropriate tasks (e.g. putting mail in the mailbox, placing produce in grocery bag).


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1Dewey, John (1966). Democracy and Education. New York, NY: Free Press.

2Oklahoma Child Care Services. Oklahoma Learning Guidelines for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Ages 0 through 36 Months.

3Alaska Department of Education and Early Development and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. (2007). State of Alaska Early Learning Guidelines: A Resource for Parents and Early Educators.

4Mindes, Gayle (2005). Social Studies in Today’s Early Childhood Curricula. National Association for the Education of Young Children: Beyond the Journal. Retrieved on March 24, 2014, from

5Mooney, Carol Garhart (2000). Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget, and Vygotsky. St Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

6Woodhead, Martin and Brooker, Liz (2008). Developing Positive Identities (Early Childhood in Focus 3). Milton Keynes, UK: The Open University. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from

7Panksepp, Jaak (2007). Can Play Diminish ADHD and Facilitate the Construction of the Social Brain? Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 16,57-66.

8The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (2002). Set for Success: Building a Strong Foundation for School Readiness Based on the Social-Emotional Development of Young Children. Bay Area Early Childhood Funders. Retrieved on March 24, 2014, from

9Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (2009). Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood.


Playful Bee

Education Team at Playful Bee
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