Playdates are Kind of a Necessary Evil
Your little social butterfly is noticing other kids, and starting to enjoy interactions with them. There’s just one problem — at this age, she’s still largely unfamiliar with the ins and outs of social etiquette (like sharing), which inevitably leads to squabbles with her playmates… and headaches for you, because let’s face it, the mediation of toddler disputes sucks. Still, she’ll never learn if she never gets the chance, so playdates are kind of a necessary evil.
There are a few ways to minimize the chances of having a toddler playdate from hell. First and foremost, arrange it during a time when your toddler is well-rested and well-fed, or at least have a snack on hand. Keep it long enough for the kids to warm up to one another, but short enough that they don’t get bored and whiny (an hour or an hour and a half is ideal). Offer toys that can be played with together, like blocks or a kitchen playset — but don’t be surprised if the little ones would rather play next to each other than actually interact. This is completely normal at this age, and you don’t need to steer them toward one another in the hopes that they’ll magically become BFFs. In fact, you don’t need to step in at all unless someone is hitting, biting, or having trouble sharing — just letting them do their thing, even independently, teaches them a lot about the simple art of hanging out.
If a toddler tiff arises, you can swoop in. If no one is getting hurt, give them a minute to see if they’ll hash it out themselves; sometimes minor conflicts can provide a valuable lesson in problem solving. But if the quarrel turns to hitting or biting, tell the aggressor “no” firmly, explain that we don’t hurt our friends, then separate them and work on distracting them with something else.
Scary Mommy Tip: If your toddler is shy, you can try to make him feel comfortable by getting down on the floor where everyone is playing and chatting with the other kids — but don’t force him to play. Let him observe from your lap if that’s where he feels safest. That way he can ease into it at his own pace.