If you drew a circle to represent your toddler’s world at the beginning of this year, you would have to place her right in the middle. She is at the center and all others revolve around her. She knows other people exist, especially her parents and other close family members, but she does not have any real concept of them as separate people. As far as she is concerned, they think and feel the same as she does. Their purpose is to entertain her and to meet her physical and emotional needs.
Between the ages of one and two, your child will go through phases when she seems to ignore you and other people completely, except when she wants something. She may seem to have lost all the cuddly affection she showed you when she was a baby, except when she is tired and wants to be held. As little attention as she pays to you, she will still interact more with you than she will with other adults or children. Her biggest concern, clearly is interacting with her environment, not necessarily with the people in it. When around other children, she may seem to treat them almost as she would when exploring furniture and other objects. She may poke at them or pull their hair and be fascinated when they react. She may bump into or even walk over a playmate to get to something else she finds interesting.
Gradually, during the second half of the year, your child will begin to understand that other people are different from her and have feelings just as she does. She will develop an interest in other children and enjoy being around them, while still not actively playing with them for any sustained periods. Play, at this point, is more of a side-by-side operation rather than real one-on-one interaction. As she comes closer to her second birthday, you will see signs that she wants to cooperate with other children and involve them in her play. And, as she gains language skills, she will begin to want to tell you and others about what she is seeing and doing, a clear sign that she’s now aware that others don’t always know what she’s thinking.