By: Stephanie Boron, M.S., CCC-SLP (Speech and Language Pathologist)
Dating can be tricky. Playdates are no exception, especially for beginners.
Here are some tips for facilitating a successful playdate.
- Remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect playdate, so set your sights on helping your child to have an experience rather than worrying about making sure everything goes perfectly.
- Keep it short — no more than 1 hour at first. Even 30 minutes is ok for playdate newbies.
- Keep it intimate — one friend at a time is plenty. Be sure to invite the other child’s parent or caregiver too. This allows for each child to feel safe and supported, especially if one child needs some extra attention or needs a break.
- Choose 1-2 familiar and comfortable activities for your child. You don’t have to go overboard here — something simple with a clear sequence can work well. Some examples are decorating cookies or making a snowman. For many kids, coming up with their own ideas on the fly and having to negotiate those ideas with their peer can be too hard.
- Tell your child the play idea before hand, and remind him or her that you’ll be there to help. Feel free to tell the other child’s parent what the plan is before hand too — they may want to prepare their child.
- Consider putting away toys that your child might have a hard time sharing. Even if it’s not part of the plan, you never know when your child’s friend might spot that highly coveted toy from across the room and go for it! This might avoid a “hey, that’s mine!” related meltdown.
- Use regulatory and/or sensory strategies before hand to help your child to feel regulated when their friend arrives.
- Be part of the play as needed.
- Have a simple backup idea in case the other idea fizzles out quickly or doesn’t work out as planned. Play doh or bubbles are easy, and often times very popular ideas.
- When the playdate is almost over, give the kids a head up. 5 minute and 1 minute warnings can be helpful in dealing with the upcoming transition.
Of course, every child’s individual profile is different. You know your child best, so use your gut, and be sure to check with your child’s therapeutic team for individualized support and suggestions.
What’s your best playdate tip? Leave a comment to share with the BOA Play Space Community. Have more questions? Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.