Setting up successful playdates for your little one can be a struggle and I know all about it.When my older son was born, I took him for walks in the stroller and passed by playgrounds full of kids thinking how nice it would be to connect with other moms in my neighborhood. I had a few friends who had children, but I really wanted my own tribe of neighborhood moms who felt the same as I did: eager yet alone. I wanted to make the “right choices” and spent a lot of time reading about what other moms did. [I think this is in part why I started this blog. There are so many of us wondering similar things and wanting the best for our children. But how do we all connect with one another? Blogging seemed to be the answer.]
Why the struggle is real:
Selecting playdates is a little like dating: sometimes the person is a good fit, and sometimes it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe things work out because you really like the parents or your children get along well. But sometimes, it’s not a match made in heaven.
Remember that play dates should be beneficial for both your child AND you. This is how you establish your tribe–the sounding board for your concerns, the advice you have been hoping for, the praise for your successes. It is for this reason that playdates are so important: your child gets socialized and you feel validated at the same time!
Today, I’d like to offer some advice, from one mom to the next, about how to connect with other moms and find a good “match” for your child in the realm of playdates.
How to find a successful playdate match for your child:
1. Rely on other qualified adults:
Ask your child’s daycare provider/nanny/teacher for a good match. Since these people interact with your child (and typically several others) each day, they are a great source of information about the way your child interacts with others. They also have the inside scoop on which children are aggressive/mild-mannered and can determine which would be a suitable playdate for your little one. Trust them, but also use your own judgement.
2. Set your child up for success:
Of course you could strike up conversation with other parents on the swings, but wouldn’t it be great if your child could learn how to greet others himself? Role play is a really powerful tool for teaching appropriate interaction. Encourage your little one to introduce himself by helping him rehearse a basic conversation. Ask him: How do you make a friend? Then, practice an opening line like, “Hi my name is ___. What’s your name?”
This technique has worked well for my older son; whenever we go to the park, we rehearse his opening line on the way there so he feels much more confident using it once we arrive. It’s a great ice breaker for kids who typically want their parents to open the conversation for them!
If the two play nicely together, don’t be afraid to ask the parent to meet up at the park another day. Come here often? 😉
3. Ask your child:
Find out who your child gravitates towards in various activities: gymnastics programs, karate, summer camp, etc. Use my conversation tips to find out who your child interacts with best. Ask why these children are fun to be around. Inquire what they laugh about. It will give you a better sense of your child’s values and determine if these kids would be a good match for a playdate.
With all of this potential match-making, we need to remember that playdates should be fun, for everyone. These tips should set you up for playdate success, both for you and for your child.
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What are your favorite tips for setting up successful playdates? Let me know in the comments!