THE TODDLER ROADMAP SERIES 2: Episode 17 – Has the Pandemic Delayed Your Toddler’s Social Skills? Here’s How to Help Them

"Everything you need to raise a happy, confident, resilient toddler 
undamaged by living through a pandemic!"

Show notes:

In this episode we will be looking at how to give your toddler the gift of confidence, particularly having lived through lockdowns, and life during a pandemic. I will be giving you advice to help develop social skills in your toddler that can make their life more fulfilling, exciting and fun.

In this episode:

  • How to develop your toddler’s social skills. 
  • ​How to teach your toddler to count.
  • ​Practical tips for moving house – stress free!
  • ​I’m in conversation with Iben Sandahl about raising toddlers the Danish Way 
I’m constantly being asked about how to help toddlers gain confidence after the lockdowns and pandemic. Also due to mask wearing some children are finding it hard to read social cues and interact with adults and other children naturally. When it comes to social skills, the earlier you begin teaching your toddler the better.

The prevalence of shyness among toddlers is rising and the pandemic has delayed social skills of young children, according to the Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman.

So why not give your child a head start by teaching them the kinds of social skills that can make their life more fulfilling, exciting and fun?

Pandemic has delayed social skills of young children.

Worryingly an increasing number of young children have been left unable to understand facial expressions after having fewer opportunities to develop their social and emotional skills during the pandemic, the education watchdog for England has said.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said the worst affected were the most vulnerable children, with those living in smaller homes without gardens typically spending more time on screens during successive lockdowns, which also resulted in delays in learning to walk and crawl.

She said it was clear from four briefings on education recovery published by Ofsted that the pandemic had created “lingering challenges”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Spielman said the pandemic and lockdowns had resulted in delays in learning speech and language; problems with social interaction and confidence, such as not knowing how to take turns and struggling to make friends; and delays in walking and crawling, with more obesity as a result.

Children were also not at the expected level in developing vital self-care skills, such as being potty trained, tying their shoelaces and taking their coats off, she added.

She said: “Children have had less time in early education, less time interacting with others outside the family. For some children they’ve not much interaction at all if they’ve spent all their time looking at screens. Children have been talking in the funny voices of cartoons they’ve been spending enormous amounts of time watching.”

So – what can you do?

To assist your child’s development, speak to your children as much as possible and take them out for walks to the shops and to the park so they could see the world and take exercise.
    I have an exclusive and comprehensive Special Report in my Toddler Roadmap eCourse that you can download here about developing speech and language with your toddler. 
    • Go first in social situations. Be the first person to say "Hello" to introduce yourself or to strike up conversations. 
    • Make a list of the kinds of things you would like your child to feel comfortable doing (e.g., talking with other children, asking for help from teachers or nursery assistants, speaking up when an adult who they don’t know speaks to them) and make a point of doing these things in front of your child.
    • Teach your child how to look someone in the eye, or how to smile at a stranger. Start with family and friends and build up slowly from there, encouraging, praising what they get right, not focusing on what goes wrong. Build confidence one small step at a time.
    • Be friendly. Routinely smile, say “Hi” and greet the people you see as you go through your day.
    • Practise talking
    Practise talking through role play, use their dressing up corner to play and act out different social situations and use puppets too. Use stories as an opportunity to chat about social situations with your children while you are cuddled up. Talk to your child through the day and ask open ended question to get your child used to conversation and wait for the answer. You can also narrate what you’re doing, to help develop their language.

    Let your child see you using good manners, like ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ This will encourage them to act this way with their friends.
    • Listen and take turns 
    Children learn both verbal and non-verbal skills from the people around them. To help your child to listen well, you can:

    Try showing them what good listening looks like through your own behaviour.

    Use games like ‘Simon Says’.

    Find ways to make taking turns fun. Choose an object and tell your family they have to be holding it when they talk. Pass it between you. If your child is a little older, take it in turns to make made up sounds as if you are having an alien conversation.
    • Show the importance body language
    Practise making eye contact and smiling with your child. If they are old enough to understand, ask them to talk about something while you use poor body language. This could be crossed arms, looking away, or fidgeting.

    Ask them how your actions made them feel. Then show them attentive body language. Take it in turns.
    • Teach them about personal space
    Not many parents think about this one 😊 - teaching your child about personal space.


    Asking them to put their hands on their hips and stick their elbows out – this is their personal space.

    Getting everyone in the room to walk around with their elbows out, to see how to give others space.

    Introduce the idea of boundaries by asking if you can come into their space. You could say things like, “Can I give you a hug?” or ‘I know you don’t like hugs so shall we high five?”
    • Develop their emotional skills 
    Help your child understand, express and cope with their strong emotions. This develops their empathy for others and helps them sense how to react to the emotions of others. 

    We’ve covered self-regulation and tantrums in other episodes
    Check out: Episode 3 on Tantrums and Episode 5 on Self Regulation 
    Teach them to problem-solve. If they’re old enough, ask them questions to get them thinking about how they could tackle different social situations. Guide them with questions like “What could you do?” or “What could you say?” ‘’What would you do if?’’ Try to avoid fixing it for them! Let them ponder it.

    You can also talk to them about friendships and what it is to be a good friend. If you can, look for opportunities for socialising by having family and friends round to play, inviting mums round for coffee with their little ones and joining mother and toddler groups.

    Read books around friendships as they are a great way to have big conversations with little people!
    • Find moments for learning in play
    Children use lots of social skills when playing. It can be helpful to spot opportunities in play for learning. You can:

    Ask your child to help with tasks and chores around the house, and see if they’ll try activities with others, to build teamwork skills. The ‘We Family Team’ mentality of all of you helping each other.

    Teach your child positive ways of responding to winning, losing, or not getting their way.

    Show them you understand when they’re upset, but help them see what the positives could be (might the outcome has made their friend happy?).

    Show them what sharing looks like when playing at home.

    Pause to Ponder This Week:

    How can I develop social skills with my toddler this week?
    I have filmed and written tips for Disney’s ‘The Gift of Play’ website. Get inspired and spark the magic of imaginative play with my tips & videos in collaboration with Disney, Pixar, Star Wars™ and Marvel.

    Download & Discover ‘The Gift of Play!’ Guide

    Bursting with inspirational play ideas, arts, crafts, games, activities and puzzles!

    Your child is learning new things every day. And just as you can help them with their language and reading, there are also ways you can boost your preschooler’s number skills.

    Teaching numbers and counting.

    When do children learn to count and how to help them?
    Learning to count is SO much more than just one, two, three!
    As parents, reading to your child probably comes quite naturally. But the thought of doing maths with them can seem quite scary. My advice is to have fun with it and make it a natural part of your day: from counting the number of jumps your child does walking along the pavement to counting the beads or toys or carrots on their plate.
    Just look for all the natural and easy ways to count.

    When do children learn to count?

    Your toddler is surrounded by numbers every day - everywhere - from simple counting in nursery rhymes to the numbers on houses or passing buses.

    But while they may be happily ‘counting’ from one to five (or more), it’s unlikely your child knows what the numbers actually mean. They don’t grasp the concept of number until they are about 4 – i.e. that one object means the number one.

    Learning to count and learning about numbers is a really complex process. Much more than it might seem from the outside.

    Lots of two-year-olds can already say the number sequence one, two, three, four, five, which is one of the early signs of learning to count. But while they’ve learnt to say the words for the numbers, and can say them in the right order, there’s lots more they have to do before they understand what those numbers actually represent.

    If you ask them to hand you one toy, for example, they probably can. If you ask them to give you three toys, it’s unlikely they’d be able to.

    How do children learn to count?

    When your little one has learnt how to say numbers in the right order, usually going up to five or 10, it’s then on to the hard(er!) bit!!!

    They also need to learn something called the Cardinal Principle, which sounds complicated but is something we all do without thinking. This is where your toddler understands that when you are counting, the last number you say means how many there are altogether. They seem to grasp it very slowly, learning one number at a time.

    To help your toddler count, ask your child to pass you one spoon or one toy at a time. They’ll be able to do this and get the idea of what ‘one’ means. But if you ask for three spoons or cars, they wouldn’t know how to do that. Within the next few weeks or months your child will begin to understand how many two is. A couple of months later, they’ll work out what three is and then four.

    Easy ways you can help your child learn to count

    1. Start early
    You can start talking to your toddler about numbers and counting before they can even talk.

    It’s exactly the same as the advice about reading and talking to babies for their language development

    You can help your child learn the counting sequence through singing nursery rhymes with numbers in them or reading them number books.

    CBeebies have some super Counting Nursery Rhymes to help. Why not try singing ‘Three Little Speckled Frogs’ or ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’
    2. Keep it simple
    As they get a bit older, make counting part of your day.

    You don’t have to sit down and do anything special. Make it as simple and as fun as you can. Do it when you’re climbing the stairs or when you’re out and about by counting cars or birds.
    3. Count things your child can’t touch
    Part of learning to count is understanding there are lots of different things that can be counted.

    Children tend to think the only things you count are actual objects, but numbers are much more than that.

    Counting anything from smiles to claps will help your toddler understand they can’t always physically hold or touch what they are counting.
    4. Try board games
    Simple board or card games are a really fun way to teach numbers and counting. Look for a game that involves counting squares or moving a counter along or find a game that involves collecting things and counting up to see who has the most at the end.

    Nursery rhymes with numbers and a really easy way to introduce the concepts of numbers and counting to your child from an early age.
    5. Use maths ‘language’
    Try adding words like ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ when you chat with your child.

    Using some simple maths language will help your child start to get the early ideas of subtraction and addition long before they actually learn it.
    6. Use your fingers
    You’ve got all the tools you need to help your child learn to count: your fingers!

    Using your fingers to show one, two, three when you are counting and when you are saying number words is really helpful. This is a great way to get your child to link the number words to the actual amounts.
    7. Mix up your counting
    As a former Deputy Head and Teacher for over 20 years when your child has got to grips with simple counting, make things a bit trickier by counting on from a number!

    If you ask your child to start at one, they may be able to count quite happily up to 10 but if you ask them to count on from three, they may struggle. But this is a really important skill that will help them later with their simple addition and subtraction skills when they start school later on.
    BBC Website ‘Tiny Happy People’ have lots of great advice to help.


    Sue Atkins Toddler Roadmap Community
    My parenting community on Peanut is a chance to connect with me one on one, ask questions, find support and make friends

    I do LIVE PODS – like Instagram Lives – and you can have access to me 1-2-1 over on the Peanut app for FREE 😊
    This question was sent in to my Toddler Roadmap Community on Peanut 


    Hi Sue, I hope that you're well. Would it be possible to help me around moving house with a toddler? Just we are moving soon and although my 2 year old daughter, seems to be really excited about her new room etc... She will be needing to start a new nursery as well etc... This is my first and only child, so I am a bit nervous/anxious about moving with a toddler.

    My daughter is potty trained and sleeps quite well through the night, so I am worried that she may regress on these once we move. Also once we have moved at some point we'll be taken the sides off her cot bed which is something else that I'm a little nervous about. Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thank You. - Sarah


    Moving house, whether it’s just a few blocks away or to a whole new city, can be an extremely stressful process. From packing up to the logistics of moving day, moving into a new house takes a significant amount of time and energy.

    Just like moving takes its toll on us, it can also be a difficult experience for toddlers and young children. From adapting to a new home to getting through the work of moving day, it’s important to plan ahead if you’re moving with young children.

    With the right amount of preparation and a moving day plan, moving into your new home with a toddler can be stress-free and simple.

    Here are six tips that you can use to make moving house with young children an easier process.
    1. Let children pack some of their own boxes especially ones with soft toys and allow them to personalise them with coloured pens, stickers or even fun personalised sticky tape saying e.g. ‘SOPHIE’S STUFF’.

    2. Ask a friend or close family member to help

    Even if you’ve arranged a moving company to help you move your furniture and other home items, moving day can still requires a lot of work and involvement. From transporting items to unpacking, the moving process is very involved and tiring.

    It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed with the numerous tasks of moving day with caring for a toddler so it’s a good idea to ask a friend or family member to help monitor and entertain your toddler throughout this busy day.

    This changes moving day from a potentially stressful day of change into a fun family experience

    3. Pack their room up last and unpack it first

    Here’s a great way to make the moving process less stressful for your toddler: pack up their room last so that their favourite toys and other items are still available right up until moving day.

    Packing your toddlers room last means that their items will be stored in the back of the moving van. This means that the movers will unpack their items first, making it easy to assemble their furniture and unpack their room as soon as you arrive.

    From cots to toys, setting up the children’s room first gives them a place to relax and play while you worry about where to place furniture, how to store household items and other typical moving day worries.

    It also means you’ll have a safe, out-of-the-way place for naptime.

    4. Let your kids know what’s going on around them.

    Talk about what’s happening, what you’re doing & make it an adventure not a stressful experience. Be upbeat, excited & enthusiastic.

    Kids take their lead from you so relax.

    Talk about how your household furniture and their favourite items aren’t going away forever – they’re just being packed up temporarily, and they’ll be available again as soon as you move into your new home to play with.

    Point out what’s staying the same.

    5. It also helps to have a moving day gift or treat on hand, especially if your children have been well behaved while you move. A new toy is a great reward for being a good mover, as well as a good way to keep your toddler occupied as you unpack.

    6. Plan your first night carefully: make it a magic first memory.

    Make it really special for your child, have a pizza and ice cream and spend time with them rather than unpacking. Make sure their favourite books, toys and games are to hand so that you can settle them for the night.

    Don’t be surprised if your child becomes more clingy after moving to a new house, this is all very natural. Stick as much as possible to your usual routine around bedtime and meals as this creates a sense of continuity and security. Try not to unpack all the boxes straight away but make it the main focus to unpack their boxes first, having their room sorted as soon as possible.

    7. Read story books about moving as I always think they start big conversations with little people!

    Moving House - by Usborne First Experiences

    This beautifully illustrated book is suitable for very young children by gently introducing them to the process of moving house. There is lots to see and look for in the pictures and the story has an amusing element making the whole concept of moving house fun. There is also a sticker book version - for a little more interaction.

    We're Moving - by Heather Maisner

    A delightful book about Amy, a pre-schooler, who doesn't want to move as it will mean she will have to say good-bye to her best friend as well as leave the garden she planted with her dad. The illustrations are lovely to look at and the story will encourage younger children to talk about their feelings and any concerns that they may have about moving house.

    Change is ALL about how YOU handle it – if you look anxious, stressed and worried so will your kids.

    How you handle change is a blueprint for how your children handle change throughout their lives.

    So be patient, be positive and listen to their worries and reassure them and look forward to all the new exciting possibilities before you.


    Sue Atkins in Conversation with Iben Sandahl Author of The Danish Way.
    Denmark approaches childhood, and society as a whole, very differently to Britain or the US and is often described as the happiest way to raise happy, confident kids.

    Iben Sandahl is an internationally acknowledged public speaker, author, psychotherapist MPF and educator with activities around the globe.

    Her book The Danish Way of Parenting: what the happiest people in the world know about raising confident, capable kids, is being translated into 27 languages. She is also the author of Play The Danish Way & Hold my Hand.

    Iben Sandahl has more than 20 years of experienced insight into child psychology and education, which is a most natural way to anchor the Danish way of practising parenthood.

    Time To Take Action

    Sign up to my Toddler Roadmap
    My Toddler Roadmap looks at all the aspects of raising your toddler so they are not damaged by a unique time in history - living through a pandemic - & each module will help you to nurture your child’s mental health and wellbeing and this podcast is linked to my Toddler Roadmap training.

    I’m going to hold your hand, support and guide you through everything you need to know about raising happy, confident resilient kids – today’s toddlers but tomorrow’s adults!
    I want you to relax & have total confidence that you’ve got a parenting expert who’s got your back - showing you the way to happy, confident kids and knowing the pandemic didn’t damage your kids long term!

    In my TODDLER Roadmap Course and Community I will give you the step by step guide for handling toddler tantrums and why they happen, I give you the roadmap for potty training, why kids become fussy eaters and what to do about it. I show you how to build self confidence in your toddler and explain why they say ‘why?’ all the time, I give you my parenting hacks on how to handle sibling rivalry when another baby arrives, I tell you about the importance of play and how to handle when they say ‘NO!’

    I tell you how to handle whining, crying, and biting. I show you my tips for getting kids into a good bedtime routine and why that’s important. I talk about why reading with kids is so important and why singing nursery rhymes with them helps their language development. I show you how to handle night terrors and I look at the bigger picture to your parenting – not just the socks and pants of life that we all get stuck in!

    So, I’m really excited to share with you my Toddler Roadmap

    Check out my YouTube Channel Playlist – videos released every Tuesday and Friday

    To get my full advice and videos join my Toddler Roadmap

    Coming up Next Week 

    Coming up in Episode 18: Ways to keep your little toddler busy, occupied, and positive on trains, boats, and flying machines!

    Travelling with toddlers

    Join my Facebook Group Community

    I have created a private and safe space for us all – a Facebook Group called ‘Don’t Stew ~ Ask Sue Atkins’ where you can ask me anything from niggles, worries, or problems or perhaps you’d just like some new ideas or you’d like to make some new friends.

    Jump on and join in – it’s free from finger pointing or tut-tting – it takes a village and we’re all in this together!
    It’s like a community clubhouse – to make sure we get together to chat, laugh and support each other on the journey – so grab a coffee and let’s get social 😊
    © Copyright Sue Atkins 2022
    Join me online for lots of great content:
    Powered By