Just as adults don’t always get along, toddlers and young children don’t always play well together. You can, however, help prepare them for successful playdates with some thoughtful planning. Interacting with other children helps improve socials skills and gets them ready for school and adult interaction. Establishing friendships helps children learn how to share and cooperate with one another. And even fighting can help prepare them for future decision making skills and give them an understanding of how to compromise to make things work. Preparation is the key though, so here are some suggestions on how to prepare your child for a playdate.
Time of Day
Many arguments and fights can be avoided if you schedule your playdates during a time of day when you know your children will be happy and in a good mood. Mornings are usually better than the middle of the afternoon, or late afternoon will usually work too. Don’t try and schedule a playdate during the middle of the afternoon as this is usually nap time or at least a time of the day when children are grouchiest and more tired.
Setting a Time Frame
Don’t just set a day for a friend to come over and play. Make sure that you set a time frame for how long the playdate will last. Although some parents would love to have their child gone for the entire afternoon, it’s just not fair to either of the children to do that. Toddlers will usually last about an hour or an hour and a half and slightly older children will last about two to three hours. Any longer than that and you will probably be cutting into meal times and the children will get bored with one another. Longer playdates also mean that fights are more likely to break out.
Plan for a Break
Every kid needs a break from playing so always plan for a snack or something to break up the time when they are playing. Snacks are the easiest way to break up the time and can give kids the extra healthy boost to get them through the rest of the playdate happily. Most kids like to snack every couple of hours anyway. If you choose not to prepare a snack then make sure you have something else prepared for them to take a break from just each other. Make a craft with them, do a puzzle, play a game, or something of your choice. Whatever you choose to do just keep in mind that a break can do both children a lot of good, even if it’s a short one.
Because many children don’t like to share their toys it can be difficult to have them do so when they’re in the comfort of their own home. Make sure you prepare your child by having them put their favorite toys away and talking with them about having to share the toys that stay out. If it’s possible, try and have a playdate at a neutral location like a park or a play center. This will help eliminate fighting over toys, and kids are more likely to play more successfully. This may not be possible all the time however so just make sure that you talk with your child about sharing and consequences for not sharing.
Understanding how to prepare your child for a playdate before it happens can make the playdate much more successful and a big difference in behavior and ideas of sharing.