Aren’t playdates great? No matter if you’re the child playing or the adults watching, they’re fun for all. Playdates give your children an opportunity to make new friends but also allow you to talk with other grown-ups. This is a great way for your child to not only develop relationships with other children, but also practice social and communication skills, taking turns, sharing their things, and switching between activities. Children can start having playdates even before they start talking. Babies and toddlers won’t be able to play together as much as older children, but they are still developing important life skills through play dates like being comfortable around other children.
Here are some helpful tips to make playdates that much better:
- Shorter is Sweeter: When your child has a playdate with a new friend, it’s better to keep the playdate short and have both parents stick around; an hour is plenty of time for most children. The older the children get, the longer they can spend playing together. But if you’re ever wondering if the playdate is stretching a bit long, it’s better to use caution and keep it short. This way kids part wishing they could spend more time together and looking forward to their next playdate. Always leave them wanting more!
- Allergy Alert! Whenever agreeing to a playdate, be sure to ask if your child’s friend has any allergies, and offer up your child’s own allergies. Consider what food might be served or if there will be any pets present and plan accordingly. Some children may not have allergies, but have a fear of pets or have difficulty eating certain foods, so it’s a good idea to ask parents about preferences beforehand. And don’t be shy with sharing your child’s allergies, fears, or other issues! Sharing them will make for a much happier and more fun play dates for everyone involved.
- No Favorites: If your child has favorite toys, consider putting these away during playdates. Your child might not be able to easily share these toys with others. Putting them away can avoid conflicts that might occur.
- Time Warning: Sometimes ending a playdate can be difficult if the kids are having a great time. To avoid sudden endings, give the kids warnings when the play date is ending. Let them know when they have 15 minutes left to play, 10 minutes, and 5 minutes. Asking the kids to also help clean up the playdate allows them to see that the playdate is actually ending, and as a result, they become more comfortable with it.
- Get Outdoors: Playing outside offers a great sensory experience that can naturally calm children. Visiting a brand new cool place with them like a park, playground, or nature reservation can be fun and open them up to new experiences.
We often forget that playdates are an awesome learning and growing experience for your little one because they’re so incredibly fun. Your child may not yet have the abilities to play with and share with a friend. Use playdate opportunities to allow them experiences for building these important skills. But remember don’t over structure your playdate with too many activities, free play can be just as fun.
So get some playdates on the calendar! Push yourself to invite the new child in class or the child who lives with challenges. Step outside your comfort zone, make the first move, and build a great group of friends to play with!
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