There is nothing that a child (or a parent) needs more than a playdate. It helps develop social skills. It helps the child and the parent to know they are not alone. But sometimes, they can be awkward, and sometimes, you can get nervous. There are ways to help playdates go smoothly. Here are some of our tips:
- When your child hits it off with another child and your intuition tells you her or his parents are good people, introduce yourself and exchange phone numbers. Trust that it is just as awkward for the other parent as it is for you. Don’t let your nerves keep you from taking the plunge.
- If possible, at first, have your first playdates in a public space. Pick out a park or some local indoor playplace.
- Agree on a start and end time. Like any other relationship, be open and honest about your wants and needs. Most people are not mind-readers.
- Discuss food if the time would interfere with a normal meal or snack time. It’s smoother and cheaper to figure out food and drinks ahead of time. Bring extra snacks if you think your child will want to share.
- If/when you have to have a playdate in someone else’s home, be respectful and safe.
- Don’t just drop your kid off unless it has been agreed upon ahead of time; it’s a playdate, not babysitting.
- Don’t let your kid get into an awkward situation alone with another adult or child.
- Teach your child to be respectful of other people’s property. Don’t trash another person’s house. Be kind.
- Leave discipline of the other child to the other child’s parent. Treat the other parent like you’d want to be treated. What would you be uncomfortable with? Whatever you are uncomfortable with, don’t do that to the other parent.
- If you are hosting the playdate, clean up, but don’t worry about making your home immaculate. Nobody’s home is perfect. Make sure, however, that anything that might get a kid hurt is put safely away. Make sure that things are as safe as they need to be for the youngest child at the playdate. If you’d prefer the kids to play in the living room, bring the toys out there.
Playdates are an important part of growing up as a child and growing as a parent. You may have noticed that they are a lot like regular dates, with similar protections and similar things that you should think about ahead of time. With some planning, they can be so much fun and help in building great relationships.
By Bethanie Ryan