Once your child has learned some basic social conventions, it's time to schedule playdates to help with social development. Invite just one child at first, which is less overwhelming for everyone and take an active role in the playdates. As your child gains experience, playdates will become more independent, with less direction from you.
Tips for Teaching Friendship with Playdates
• Focus on interests and commonalities. Sure, learning to relate with diverse people is a valuable life skill, but for your child's early friendships, seek out children with similar temperaments and interests. Conversation will flow more freely and your child will gain confidence and create friendships more quickly. Sports practice, classes or clubs are natural settings for children to meet potential friends with similar interests.
• Schedule a playdate. Ideally, you'll have opportunities to meet other parents before you schedule a playdate, but if not, invite the parents over for a brief get-together. When both children and parents seem ready, you can schedule a playdate without the parents. Keep playdates brief - two or three hours is plenty for young children. A great way to meet parents is at your kiddo's childcare center!
• Have structured playdates. In a perfect world, playdates would always run smoothly, with children happily exploring and creating together. The reality is often something different. What if your child refuses to share or play with the other child? Or worse, the children have such a good time that your house is in shambles? Plan playdate activities, such as play dough or puzzles, as ice breakers. Be sure to set some ground rules so everyone knows what to expect. Be prepared to kindly, but firmly, redirect behavior that's run off course. Don't hover, but stay nearby and intervene if things aren't going well. Often, simply offering another activity is all that's needed: "It's not safe to jump on the bed. Let's go outside and do sidewalk chalk."
• Use playdates to build social skills. When it comes to social skills, young children are eager, if imperfect, learners. Subtly observing your child during a playdate can help you understand her social strengths - and weaknesses. After a playdate, make a few gentle comments to nudge learning. Point out positive behaviors, such as, 'I noticed that you let Layla swing first on the swing. That was really thoughtful of you!" These comments help children identify how to be a good friend and increase the chances of those behaviors being repeated. You can also help your child learn new behaviors. "It was hard to share your new truck, wasn't it? How do you think Julian felt when you yelled at him? Next time, let's put special toys away and get out only the toys you know you can share."
From the playground to media, children are exposed to widely varying depictions of social interactions - some of them positive and some of them less desired. Playdates put parents back in the driver's seat, allowing you to model and foster respectful communication, gracious manners, and supportive friendships. At Premier Academy it's our goal to provide the best childcare to foster amazing friendships between kids and parents!