When Should My Child Start Having Play Dates?

Three young children playing with animal toys on their playdate

When Should My Child Start Having Play Dates?

It’s no secret, babies and toddlers enjoy interacting and spending time with one another. Scheduling baby play dates with other little ones is a great way to give your child the opportunity to develop social skills and make friends. However, parents may not know the best way to navigate early play dates with other children. With adult supervision and a safe environment, you, your child and your child’s play date partners will have a safe and fun-filled experience.

By the time your baby is able to sit up independently, one of the important early developmental milestones, she will likely enjoy baby play dates, seeing and interacting with children her age. At this age and stage of infant development, babies are exploring the world around them with their hands and mouths, so often they will reach and grab one another.

It’s best to keep these early baby play dates closely monitored and to be prepared for both squeals of delight and tears. During play times, sit on the floor with your baby or at least near enough to intervene if the exploratory play looks like it might lead to a baby being hurt.

Schedule Play Dates

When your little one is 1- to 2-years-old, he will engage in what early childhood experts call “parallel play,” during which children play near, next to or around one another with very little engaging interaction.

At this age, you may sit a bit further back and allow your toddler to move about and explore the play area. Too many toddlers in a small space can result in over-stimulation or accidental injury, so it is best to limit play groups to four or five with parents close by to supervise.

By the time your child is 2- to 3-years-old, she will begin engaging in interactive play with other little ones. If there is one adult present to supervise, you can drop your child off at a play date and allow her to have social interactions with other children her age.

Here are some recommended DOs and DON’Ts for your baby’s play dates:SchedulePlayDates_Pin-1

  1. DO ensure your baby or toddler is carefully supervised for safety by you or a trusted care-taker. Never leave a baby or toddler unattended to play. DON’T get so caught up in socializing with other moms or dads that you are distracted from supervisory duties.
  1. DO provide age-appropriate toys and objects. Since infants from 6- to 9-months-old are still exploring the world orally and teething, be sure to provide your baby with teething toys and sanitary options for redirecting exploration. For toddlers, make sure nearby equipment, furnishings and toys are sturdy without sharp edges.
  1. DON’T expect your baby or toddler to grasp the concept of sharing until age 3. This concept is too abstract for little ones in early stages of baby development. If a turf war erupts, gently redirect your child using another toy or activity.
  1. DON’T overdo it. Too long of a play date can be overstimulating. Babies and toddlers grow and develop rapidly and need rhythm and routine. Try to be consistent in maintaining regular meal and naptime schedules amidst play dates.

Want to know more about how you as a parent can make the most of play dates for your baby or toddler? Check out this blog post for five helpful, parent-focused tips.

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