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  • How to Use Playdates to Teach Manners, Take Turns and Share Toys!

    Setting up playdates is one way to start your child socio-emotional development.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • Is it possible that the reason girlfriends get pregnant almost at the same time (yes, it happens — read more here) is because they want their kids to become instant playmates? Whether it happened intentionally or not, there are benefits to having a child who has siblings or playmates who are close to his age. Their playdates are the beginning of lifelong friendships.

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    Why playdates are important

    Setting up playdates is one way to start your child socio-emotional development. You want him to socialize with people who are the same age (and height!). While going to school is a way for them to learn socialization skills, playdates are the first steps to creating early friendships on their own terms.

    Meeting people with different backgrounds give them an opportunity to learn about other cultures and learn to empathize with others. Playdates are also good chances for little tots to learn manners, such as taking turns, returning borrowed toys, saying please and thank you, and eventually solving spats with little intervention from adults or by themselves. 

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    How to set up playdates for your toddler

    Not all kids have siblings or cousins who are close to their age. Not all moms have BFFs who get pregnant alongside them. But don't let those circumstances hinder you from arranging playdates for your little tot. It's a little bit more work for you, but we promise it's all worth it. Who knows, you may make new friends as well!

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    Keep the playdate small

    Invite two to three kids, and keep it short (three hours should be the maximum), especially if it's the first time the kids are playing together. Toddlers aren't that big on attention span yet, so just think of it as testing the waters both for you and your child. If everything goes well, and your child had fun, then you and the child's parent can reschedule another one.

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    Lay down rules

    Where will the playdate be and for how long? Will snacks be served or should the parents of the other kids bring their own? How about toys? Should each child bring his toys? Would it be okay to leave their toddler in your care or a caregiver needs to stay with them?

    A playdate doesn't have to entail that much work. Toddlers don't need many toys nor complicated ones to keep them busy. But if your time permits, make a detailed itinerary and even set up activity corners.

    There are, however, details that you should cover, as pediatricians and parents shared with The Huffington Post.

    • Don't be shy to ask if the other child is vaccinated. Ask also, if someone in their house has been sick recently, even if it's just a fever. Be upfront with this information to the child's parents as well. 
    • Inform them if you have a pet and ask if they have one too. Those with kids with allergies and who may be afraid of animals will want to know.
    • See if there's a pool or a trampoline at the house. These can be considered health hazards, especially for young kids. Will the kids have access to it or will it be off-limits? Who will be supervising them?
    • Screen time rules also matter. Some kids are not allowed TV at all or during certain hours. Decide if TV or YouTube will be part of their play date.
    • Does anyone have a food allergy or specific dietary restrictions? It's more crucial if you're prepping the snacks.
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    Prepare your child

    Based on your discussions with your fellow parents, prep your toddler whether he's hosting or coming over to his friend's house. Remind him to be polite, mind his manners, and to follow the rules of the house if it's not happening in your house. Prep his yaya, too, if she's going to accompany your child to the playdate.

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    Your toddler may not be entirely ready to socialize, but being around kids his age opens his world to parallel play, which means he is at the playdate but he's content to play by himself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. He may eventually copy what the other child is doing, and it’s actually a brain booster for all of them.

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    “Children model one another, so they develop through observational learning: language skills, motor skills, and social/emotional skills. Parallel play also allows kids to maintain their ability to play alone,” says Dr. Katie Davis, a clinical neuropsychologist and researcher at John Hopkins University. (Read more about parallel play here.)

    Be ready to assist

    Toddlers may end up fighting over a toy or even attention. These are teaching moments for social etiquette, empathy, and understanding, especially when it comes to dealing with other kids as well as their emotions.

    When the kids are preschool-age, you may need to hold back and give the little ones the chance to resolve it by themselves. Too controlling parents tend to negatively affect their child's well-being as well as their budding relationships. 

    You cannot predict which kids your little one will gravitate to when it comes to making friends. Giving toddlers opportunities to meet kids in all walks of life is similar to exposing them to all kinds of activities to let them decide which one they love and enjoy. 

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