Playdates: Good for You and Your Toddler

Even if your first few playdates don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, don’t give up!


 

If you’re the parent of a toddler, you may have already been approached by another parent to set up a playdate – or you may be eager to initiate one yourself. Playdates can be fun for everyone, with a little planning and patience.

 

 

 

 

 

 There’s more than one way to organize these get-togethers:

1. One parent looks after both toddlers in her home, while the other parent runs some errands or takes a break. Next time, the toddlers will play together at the other home. This works best with older toddlers who are familiar with each other and the other parent.

2. The toddlers play together at one home, with both parents there.

3. The parents and toddlers meet at park or other area where they can play (a good option if one of the children tends to be very territorial about his or her toys!).

 

Playdates are a great chance for parents to enjoy either some conversation with another adult or a little break from caring for a toddler. You get a chance to see your child in a different setting and watch how another parent handles the inevitable difficult moments. Playdates are a great way to make parenting less isolating.

They can be good for toddlers, too, as long as you keep your expectations reasonable:

  • Young toddlers can’t really play with other children. At best, they can play alongside the other child. So don’t count on the two of them playing happily on the other side of the room while you visit with your friend. With luck, they’ll both get involved with toys or another activity, though not necessarily together, and you may find your toddler wants to interact more with you than the other child.
  • Toddlers can’t really understand the concept of sharing (even though you’ve explained it over and over). It may help if the visiting child brings some of his own toys along, or if you have toys (such as building blocks) that can easily be divided up. Asking your child to decide in advance which toys he wants to share may work with an older child, but younger toddlers are likely to suddenly change their minds when the visitor arrives.
  • It may help if you “set up” the play activities for them, by demonstrating what they can do with the blocks or other toys.
  • Time the playdate so that neither child is tired or hungry, or things may go downhill quickly.
  • Keep the visit short. With young toddlers, an hour is plenty. You can gradually extend the time as the children get older.
  • No matter how many times you say “use your words,” toddlers are easily frustrated and may quickly turn to biting, hitting, kicking and other physical ways of dealing with their playmates. Try to keep an eye on the situation so you can intervene before they start pounding on each other.

Even if your first few playdates don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, don’t give up! As your toddler matures and becomes more familiar with the parents and children he visits, you’ll soon find these get-togethers are something you both look forward to.

 

 

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