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Peaceful Playdates for Toddlers


Tykes going on two have an exciting year of milestones ahead. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, kids this age will soon start practicing handy new skills, gaining independence and growing "increasingly enthusiastic about the company of other children." In short, they're turning into social creatures.

Here's how to ensure your child's playtime's with peers are the best they can be:

  • Set a clear time reference for when your child gets to hang out with his friend. Since toddlers have little concept of clock time, say, "after your nap" or "when we get to the slide."
  • Know when to quit. Kids with waning energy usually end up in arguments (just like grown-ups). Politely make an exit by thanking the host Mom for a splendid date and promise more time together soon.
  • To ward off tantrums, give your child advance notice of leaving. Try a gentle warning: "After you do X and do Y, then we must go...." Learning to leave play dates calmly is an ongoing process that will take a long time.
  • Play after rest. After all, relaxed kids make better hosts (and guests). If you notice kids getting fussy, it's best to switch gears and suggest a different activity.
  • If your child's the guest, pack your own toys and snacks. While it's great to encourage kids to share, you can avoid toy standoffs by making sure your child has playthings he can turn to should his pal have a difficult time letting go of his.
  • Relax. Seeing parents enjoy themselves creates a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere for kids, too. Have them play host. Carolyn Mackler, a Manhattan mother of one, says, "Teaching kids to greet a friend at the door with a cordial 'welcome' is a fun building block. This is kids' time; make it interactive, imaginative, and let it happen organically."
  • Stick around. Drop-off play dates are tough for toddlers struggling with separation anxiety. If you must go on an errand, be sure to say good-bye, but don't belabor it. And keep the errand very short.
  • Tailor activities to personalities. If one or both of the children is outdoorsy, then an indoor venue may not bring out their best. If they prefer quiet, a rowdy play space could be disastrous.

This information is not a substitute for personal medical, psychiatric or psychological advice.

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