Toddler Playdates: The Ultimate Guide

Toddler playdates are exciting times as you watch your little one learn how to socialise and interact with others. Playdates don’t have to be over the top or complicated, they are supposed to be filled with fun and excitement. Having a little plan in place and communicating with the other parents will help to make the playdate as enjoyable as possible and limit the risk of any mishaps.

Read along to learn the best tips and tricks for your little one’s best playdate, whether you are meeting in a local park, visiting their home or hosting the playdate yourself.

When should my child start having playdates?

Between the ages of 1-2, your toddler may engage in parallel play, when children play near, next to or around each other with very little engagement or interaction.

During this stage, playdates are possible, but they will most likely only consist of parallel play, and this is okay! Your toddler will learn how to observe others and become spatially aware of their surroundings. They will get used to having someone of similar age near them. During this stage, as parents, you should just sit back and watch them move about and explore.

When your child is between the ages of 2-3, they will begin engaging in interactive play with other toddlers. These playdates will be more involved, go for a little longer and should be planned (with room for flexibility).

Playdate activity ideas

Do some finger painting: this could get messy, so putting a tablecloth on the outside table, lawn or courtyard would not be a bad idea. Lots of paper is also a good idea, to make sure they don’t start finger painting anything else. Make sure to ask the other parent to dress their toddler in old clothes so they don’t get paint on their good clothes.

Make car tracks: this is another messy idea, however could be great fun. Put paint on paper plates and roll toy cars through it, then onto paper. Make sure they only roll the cars on paper…

Play with Playdoh: everyone loves Playdoh! It’s such a simple activity that encourages creativity.

Have a dance party: put on some funky tunes and get the dress-ups out of the cupboard- we’re having a dance party! They are super fun and great exercise.

Give gardening a go: let the little ones get some vitamin D and explore the elements. They can help plant some flowers or dig some holes.

How to host a playdate

Hosting a playdate isn’t difficult nor time-consuming. Some planning is necessary to ensure everyone is comfortable and has fun! Firstly, is it just a drop-off playdate, or will the parents be having a playdate also? This is a good way for parents to make friends and socialise also!

When planning the playdate, be specific with the time and location, rather than just leaving an open invitation. Also, be prepared to be flexible. As we all know, toddlers can have their moments and sometimes they are right at the time you are supposed to be leaving home.

Snacks! Always have some snacks for both toddlers and adults on hand: a hungry toddler is not a happy toddler… These can just be simple yummy snacks that you know most toddlers love. Be sure to check with the parent of the toddler regarding allergies.

If you are hosting the playdate in your home, it should already be safe, however, if you are not, just ensure the environment is toddler-safe.

Have a few different activities the little ones can pick from. This will keep them busy and having fun.

There is a high chance the space in which the playdate is held will get a little messy. Don’t bother tidying or cleaning halfway through the playdate, just do it all after your guests leave.

How to be a good guest

Being a good guest is simple. Offer to bring some cupcakes or coffee and show up at the time you had arranged. Only stay for the discussed time (approximately 1 hour) and offer to help clean up after activities.

How long should the playdate go for?

Playdates usually last for 1 hour for toddlers. They have not had much practice with socialising and interacting with other toddlers, so you don’t want to overwhelm them. They will also most likely be incredibly exhausted after the playdate, so they will need their nap time.

If the playdate is going really well and the little ones are having fun, you can probably stretch it out for another hour.

Tips for good playdates

Let your little one pick their playdates: letting your little one pick their playdate helps them to be more cooperative and excited. They will learn who they enjoy spending time with and eventually become friends.

Make a plan: create a simple plan including snacks, activities, location and time. It’s always good to be prepared and this will also ensure the other parent is comfortable if they are only dropping off.

Set small/general ground rules: not too many, just a couple. Just some little guidelines, such as sharing toys. These are designed to keep the peace and ensure everyone has a fun time.

Make it a social event for the parents: the parents could have a catch-up whilst the little ones are! This is a great way to share the responsibility of watching them. As parents of children, there’ll be plenty to talk about!

Have clear communication: communicating with your child before the playdate and getting them excited will help with making your guests feel welcome. Communicating with the other parent before, during and after the playdate will keep everything clear and leave no room for confusion.

Pack snacks: whether it’s a little bit of fruit or some other favourite snacks, they will come in very handy when your little one becomes hangry… A super quick and easy snack idea is either Nutura’s Cognitive or Calm smoothie!

If you’re wrapping up the playdate and preparing for nap time, Nutura’s Calm Smoothie is a great choice to encourage sleep. If the playdate is just getting started, Nutura’s Cognitive smoothie will encourage activity and learning.

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Toddler playdates are a time for fun and are the perfect opportunity for your little one to learn social skills and make friends. Every toddler will approach playdates differently and develop social skills at different times. Through playdates, toddlers develop important social skills, such as sharing, cooperation, and communication, that will serve as a foundation for future friendships.

Whether it’s at a local park, in your backyard or home, planning and communication are crucial for a fun playdate! Unfortunately, things often never go to plan, so be prepared to be flexible and switch up your plans a little. Most importantly, have fun and watch as your little one grows and learns how to make friends.

Tags: Parent's Corner