Except for certain cases, most kids are the opposite of antisocial. Unlike their parent who, for many reasons, want and need to be in solitude, especially once their lives are taken over by the kids. Parents often underestimate the value of social interaction for kids, that’s where they learn body language interpretation, picking up on social nuances, and dealing with different situations out of their comfort zone (but in a safe environment). However play dates are often burdensome and can take their toll on the parents, in addition to the additional drive and moving around the baby’s menagerie, you have to deal with other adults that you may not have many things in common with. Just remember that we sacrifice a lot for our babies and this is probably one of the least difficult one with the most added value, no matter how young the babies are. Just remember these key points:
- Set up the play date in an expansive, no frills matted safe play area for tots, that way you don’t have to watch them every second (but you’ll still need to keep an eye out)
- You don’t have to small talk with other parents, bring a book, magazine, work, or just write lists to keep you busy – you’ll obviously need to watch your child but it won’t be all the time, especially if you set it up in a safe environment.
- Part of the point of play dates is social interaction, be mindful not to move your baby all the time once they face another child or compete for a toy, the point is for them to learn how this social interaction stuff works – never too young – it’ll also give you insight on their personality and how to deal with them (i.e. are they aggressive, or extra timid and give up easily)
- Keep play dates few and far, you don’t need to do them every day or every week, but once a week or two weeks is great and sufficient to get your child’s social interaction juices flowing (obviously depending on your schedule). Just don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of time you need to do play dates and rather go with the flow.
- Change the location and the kids you do play dates with, some kids may never get along (just like some adults) and others may get along too well that it doesn’t take your kid out of their comfort zone, the more diverse the play dates, the more adjusted they will be.
- Never force play dates on your kids, see how they are and if they enjoy it – if they don’t there is no point in forcing them to do it. In most cases it is the adults who find play dates challenging rather than the kids, but there are exceptions. Forcing play dates on kids may in fact have a negative long term impact and increase the chances of being more anti-social and awkward. Give them a break and maybe try again in a month or so depending on their evolving interests and personalities.
- Remember it is not about you, is for your kids. You may enjoy certain parents more than others but that’s an added bonus, that shouldn’t stop you from play dates with parents whose kids your child may enjoy playing with more, even if you don’t find their parent particularly your cup of tea. So unless the parent is aggressive, harmful or overwhelming you need to suck it up once every two weeks or month and have your play date – for your kid’s sake.
- Remember play dates are temporary and eventually your child well outgrow them, however the benefits early on are long lasting and will help them with social skills that will be useful in picking out their future friends as they grow up.