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Playdates for Toddlers- Maybe

by YPI Editors | October 4th, 2016 | Infants/Toddlers, Social
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toddlers-walk-parentsIn modern society there seems to be much done to ensure that our children are socialized. While our parents and grandparents may state that they never did anything as silly as this, we need to remember that families were bigger a couple generations ago. When you have four siblings, there probably is less need to get together with other kids; you had a household of them at your disposal. Even if you have a bigger family, you still may want to introduce your child to friends outside of their siblings. There’s nothing wrong with that.

So, when do you start to encourage outside socialization? I’m assuming it’s fairly obvious that during the first year of life there isn’t a huge need to schedule playdates for your infant. He may be starting to walk or crawl, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush and find him friends. Now if you need some time with another adult, who just happens to have an infant, that could be a good plan. But don’t feel pressured to schedule play time for your son and another baby.

When your child reaches the toddler years, some interaction with other similarly aged children is a good idea. Before scheduling a first playdate, there are important developmental considerations. One, toddlers don’t play with each other, they play next to each other. This is known as parallel play. Two, a toddler may have difficulty sharing.

With this knowledge in hand, keep it really simple and schedule a playdate for your toddler and another parent and his or her toddler. Be sure to choose a time that doesn’t come right before (or during) naptime. The day of the playdate start talking to your toddler about this event. Be sure to let her know whether it will be at your house or your friend’s. Talk to her about sharing and the fun of playing with someone else. (If naptime is a struggle and the playdate is after naptime, you may not want to mention it until after.)

When playdate time arrives, make sure that the toddler who is visiting is shown where the toys are and maybe pointed in the direction of something he may like. At this point, it’s fine to let things happen naturally. If your toddler is feeling shy, it’s ok for him to sit in your lap. If both toddlers want the same toy, give them a minute to solve the problem. Intervene if they becomes aggressive or upset. If the weather allows, a walk outdoors is a good option. This gives both toddlers time to study the other without needing to share a toy.

Keep this first playdate short- an hour or less. Although it may feel short for you, it was probably long for your toddler. If this playdate went well, consider scheduling one on a regular basis. If this playdate went poorly (your toddler never left your lap, cried the whole time), it’s ok to wait a while before trying again. She has a whole lifetime to play with friends.

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