Survival Guide: Toddler Playdate Edition
Words Megan Gordon
Toddlerhood is a wonderful, wild, and dynamic time characterized by pushing boundaries, testing out language and new motor skills, and learning to socialize. It can be a tricky age socially as the developmental range is often vast: some kids are chattering away and stacking blocks independently while others need a bit more stimulation and encouragement. And this is the reason I love introducing play dates at this age – kiddos get a change of scenery, interaction with their peers, and a chance to begin boosting those early social skills. Here are a few tips that have worked well for us when planning play dates.
1. Snacks to the Rescue
It’s always a great idea to have a few snacks on hand to break up the day and normalize energy levels (of course you’ll want to inquire about allergies ahead of time). I have a few clear storage containers set aside just for kiddo snacks, which I love because you can quickly identify what’s in them and get something healthy into small hands in no time.
2. Toys Galore
While this may seem obvious, setting out a bunch of different kinds of toys is the best start to any at-home play date. Sharing isn’t a concept familiar to most toddlers, so if you have a broad range of interactive toys, books, and stuffed animals there should be enough to go around. I love using this generous laundry bin to tuck away all the toys and neaten things up once playtime is over.
3. Timing is Everything
We always plan play dates around nap schedules so spirits are at their best, and I like to limit each to no more than two hours (which I learned the hard way). The novelty of a new home and a new friend to play with, I find, wears off quickly for toddlers and ending on a high note with waves and kisses is always preferable to a complete meltdown.
4. Mix Up the Scenery
While I don’t think you need to have elaborate plans for toddler play dates, a change of scenery can be good if the kids start to seem bored or fussy. If you have a nearby park, that’s an easy choice, but we’ll often just take a walk around the block to point at trees and birds or head out into the backyard to play ball if the weather cooperates.
5. Take the Backseat
Taking a step back and not interfering with spontaneous play is something I’ve struggled with as a new parent, but if the kiddos are playing well on their own, let them be! They may not need you every moment of the play date – so while I keep a side eye on them to ensure everyone’s safe, making a second cup of coffee for myself is always a good idea.