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Now that your child has entered the preschool years, playdates provide a great way for her to sharpen her social skills and learn proper play etiquette (i.e. sharing and taking turns). Up until now, most toddlers do what is called parallel play, where they may play side-by-side, but not necessarily with each other. Your preschooler may be much more interested in interacting, and what better way than a supervised meet and greet at your house? To ensure the best possible outcome, be prepared by following the tips presented below.
- Limit playdates to one child at a time, that way each child can get to know the other one-on-one.
- Limit play time to 1-2 hours, and choose a time of day in which your preschooler won’t likely be hungry or tired.
- For the first few playdates together, consider inviting the other child’s parents to join in the fun. That will help their child be more at ease, and hopefully eliminate any potential tears or anxiety.
- Stock up with snacks and juice. Also, be sure to inquire if the other child has any food allergies and what his favorite snacks might be.
- Plan an activity or two. Your preschoolers may be very happy to play with toys together, but it’s a good idea to have something planned that they can both participate in. Some suggestions include: arts and crafts, baking cookies, planting a garden, or playing a board game.
- Limit TV and computer use. Playdates are all about social interaction and it’s very hard to interact if both kids are staring at a screen. Take a walk together outside if the children seem to be getting bored.
- Prevent squabbles over toys by hiding your preschooler’s favorites. Encourage each child to share and try to let them work it out on their own before intervening.
- Conflicts are common at this age, but if you notice it escalating to a verbal or physical confrontation, be prepared to step in immediately. Explain that that kind of behavior is not tolerated in your house, and offer a solution or a compromise to the issue. If they cannot agree on a resolution, some time apart may be needed, or change activities.
- Don’t wait until the end of the playdate to clean up. It’s hard to ask a preschooler to clean up if his parents are at the door, but if you time it just before snacks, you may have better luck.
- End the playdate on a happy note by giving fair warning (5 minutes) and consider sending the child home with a goody bag that includes any artwork created together as a small memento.