Problem Solving Playdates give children the chance for additional social interaction, usually one-on-one or in small groups. This interaction is especially important for children that are not yet in school or who attend a highly structured school environment; free play with children their age is vital for creativity, social skills, and conflict management. During playdates, it’s important to allow children to work through small disagreements – about sharing for example – on their own. Playdates give children a safe space to build communication and problem-solving skills.
Builds Independence Playdates build independence and confidence. Whether the child’s primary parent or caregiver is in the next room or is returning in an hour, playdates allow children to build a sense of independence. If the playdate is out of the home, the child must learn to spend time away from her caregiver and adapt to new situations and environments. If the child is the host of the playdate, he will learn to share and welcome others into his environment. As children age, you can teach them more hosting skills that will carry them through life.
Reinforces Sharing Behaviors While children may understand the concept of shared toys at school, it may be more difficult for them to share their own toys with friends who visit at home. Talk to your child beforehand about sharing – if it’s been a problem in the past, you might give the child the opportunity to put away one toy (and only one!) before the playdate begins – this might be a favorite or sentimental toy. Giving them this choice may help them feel more comfortable with sharing other toys. For children going to a friend’s home, remind them that they must treat their playmate’s toys with as much care and love as their own. If problems arise during the playdate, set aside time to talk to your child afterwards about what went wrong and how the situation can be handled differently; consider role playing the interaction again to better prepare for next time.
Before Scheduling a Playdate
Communicate with Your Nanny If your nanny hasn’t scheduled a playdate for your child before, communicate very clearly any and all expectations you might have. Can the nanny schedule playdates without checking with one or both parents? Should she stay during playdates at friends’ homes? Are certain friends “pre-approved”? Can the nanny take your child and friends on outings? Are sleepovers allowed and at what age? Can she invite your child’s friends into your home without notifying you?
Schedule Thoughtfully This is especially important for young children. Take nap and mealtimes into account when scheduling playdates – aim for your child’s peak mood and energy times. If you’ll be hosting another child during mealtime, be sure to check with the caregiver for any allergies or requests. Communicate a set start and end time to the caregiver for the other child to avoid miscommunications.
Plan and Prep When your child is headed to another’s home, make sure you or your nanny reach out ahead of time and chat about expectations and safety measures. Who will be watching the children? Are there any pets in the home? Will the children be swimming? Do you plan to go on any outings or take public transportation? Be prepared to answer these questions (and often many more) if you’re the host of the playdate. Especially for young children, it may be appropriate for the nanny to stay during the entire playdate to offer care and support as needed.
Talk to Your Child Chat with your child ahead of time. Empower them with information so they are prepared – let them know when the playdate is and whether you or another caregiver will be staying. Let them know if they’ll be eating there and what time they are coming home. Remind them how to be a good host and share – be ready to reinforce positive behavior at the end of a playdate. Before scheduling, consider bringing the child into the conversation – would they like to have a friend over or would they prefer to visit a museum or park together? Making the child a decision-maker can set you up for a better chance of success.