Playdates for Toddlers

It’s sweet when your child plays together with other children. What’s not so sweet is when the fun suddenly morphs into a toddler tantrum and a screaming match over toys.

Peaceful Playdates for Toddlers

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for a playdate, defuse difficult situations, and help ensure a stress-free, fun experience for both you and your child:

  1. Scheduling a playdate. Your child probably won’t start truly interacting with other kids until age 3. Signs that your child is ready to play with a friend include being more aware of other people’s feelings (asking why another child is sad, for example) and showing curiosity about what her neighbor is doing or playing with.

  2. Adjusting your expectations for the playdate. Keep in mind that at this age, your child probably hasn’t yet mastered the idea of cooperation and doesn’t have enough vocabulary to explain her frustrations. This means you should be ready to do damage control if tempers start to get out of hand during toddler play.

  3. Preparing for the playdate. Start by reaching out to the other child's parents and setting some mutual goals. Agreeing to keep the playdate short will help ease the frustrations that result when kids are overly tired or stimulated. Once you’ve scheduled the playdate, give your tot a heads-up. Tell him that Sam is coming over to play and that he’ll need to share his toys. Let him choose some special toys that can be put away, and not shared, during the playdate.

  4. Your role during the playdate. You’ll want to stay in the room during the first playdate, but not be overly engaged. If things do become heated, feel free to step in. A simple explanation can work wonders: “Sam hasn’t had a chance to play with the truck yet. How about we set a timer for you to play with it for three more minutes? Then you can give it to Sam.”

Planning Playdates

Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect playdate. Whether the day ends in hugs or tears, your child will still have gained valuable social skills that will set him up for future friendships.


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