Playdates: The Good and the Horrid

Eliza Clark
March 9, 2009

Here's how we feel about playdates:

When they are good, they are very very good;
When they are bad they are horrid.

You know what we mean, right?

A great playdate sparks such energy and delight in our little ones. They get swept into imaginative play, try on every costume in the dress-up bin, or invent elaborate pretend scenarios. The experiment with each other's toys, show off their treasures, or examine books together. An idea from one child leads to a new thought from the other, and they go back and forth in a spiral of creativity. What a joy!

A bad playdate, on the other hand, goes like this: The children squabble over toys, and want only the very thing that the other one has. No one can agree on what to play. Mediation prolongs the stand-off but doesn't diffuse it. Harsh words fly, sometimes hands and feet too, and tears flow. What a horror!

So how do we avoid the horror and promote the good? Here are a few tips on organizing happy playdates from a few of our most trusted experts:

  • Playdates work best when they are one-on-one. That means keeping any siblings that are home distracted so the friends can play.
  • Ask your child's preschool teacher for ideas on who would be a good playmate rather than just going by the parents you happen to know.
  • Vary your child's playmates, and don't schedule more than one or two get-togethers a week.
  • Supervise and be ready to offer a more structured activity, like painting or play-doh or baking cookies, if free play is veering off course.
  • Keep the playdate to roughly one and a half hours, and don't be afraid to cut it short if the little ones start getting cranky.

From the Parents

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