Play Dates – What You Need to Know

It’s time for a playdate. Follow MH’s advice to turn toddler playtime from fraught to fun.

WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS

Toddlers, in general, can be very territorial about space and objects. In order for your child to go out and enjoy playdates, she needs to be comfortable mingling with other children and have an ability to share space and toys. Sharing, however, must be taught, they can’t do this on their own and playdates are great for toddlers to develop their social skills.
 
How old should your child be for play dates?
Once your child becomes interested in peers. This could be from as young as 12 months. Once children are around two they enjoy being with others their own age and may show a preference for one child over others. At this age, they are learning so many social, communication and language skills and these can all benefit from peer play, explains Fiona Walker, chief executive officer and principal of schools, Julia Gabriel Education.

How long should each playdate be?
For young children any activity over two hours can be way too much, explains Walker. She adds that play dates should not be planned for anything longer than two hours and that should take into consideration time for a snack and maybe even a story.
    
If the play date requires them to share and interact a fair bit I would say even an hour may be long enough so they can end on a high note and be looking forward to the next play date, says Walker.

Should the playdate be with someone from school?
Yes of course! If your child shows they have a favourite friend then it is nice for them to have play dates out of the school setting. Sometimes if your child is extremely shy at school, by arranging play dates you can help forge some friendships so your child will feel more secure and happier in school, says Walker.

Should snacks be allowed during playdates?
Snacks and healthy bites can be allowed during playdates. It is also good to check with the other parents to ensure if any of the children in the playdate have any dietary requirements. Try to limit sugary snacks to prevent sugar highs, advises Kelly Wong, principal of Kinderland Woodlands Mart.

How often should these playdates be?
In order to help your child develop strong friendships, once a week over a period of time is helpful, advises Walker. Children learn a lot from ongoing friendships so if the play date is regularly scheduled the children will likely develop a deeper understanding of each other and strengthen their social and emotional skills.

What’s on the Play Date Schedule?
Playdates are meant to increase interaction between the children. One can organise activities that require the children to play together instead of leaving it up to the children. There is no need to overplan as a playdate is for the children to enjoy each other’s company. Set up a tent with bedsheets or some building blocks and give them space for their creativity to flow, says Wong.
    
Children should also be encouraged to use their imagination. This allows them to explore creativity. Activities such as dancing and games that require teamwork (such as building/ball games) can help bring the children together. You on one team, the children on the other team.

You can also check in with your child on what she would like to do during the playdate, or what she thinks her friend would like to do during the playdate.

Thanks for sharing!