"My daughter always clings to me at parties and playgroups."
Be the early bird. "We ask parents of a child who is particularly shy to arrive a little earlier than the other kids," says Field. "That way she can get comfortable and perhaps even connect with another child before the classroom fills up." The same strategy should work just as well for your child's social events.
Ease her into things. If your child refuses to let go of your leg in a social setting, slowly walk her toward a building-block set, a playground sandbox, or something else she enjoys. Then pick up a block or a toy shovel yourself. "When she watches you getting involved, she'll probably want to join in," says Kimberly Patterson, a teacher at the Cornerstone Center for Early Learning, in St. Louis. Once she does, you can step back slowly.
Don't push it. Be respectful of your child's reserved personality. Forcing her to jump in when she's uncomfortable may cause her to retreat further. "Accept that she may be just as excited to observe what other kids are doing as she would be to take part," Marks says.