Every playdate is different from the next, which means you’ll usually have to use your best judgement to solve problems in the moment, as they arise. But it never hurts to plan ahead, so there are some things to keep in mind as you help Baby expand her social circle.
For Baby: Less is more
It’s a good idea to keep the number of toddlers at the playdate low, because at this age, Baby won’t really be directly interacting with other toddlers very much anyway. And in terms of the length of a playdate, usually 1 to 2 hours is fine.
For Baby: Some rules stay, some rules go
Maybe certain rules don’t really need to be enforced while there are guests in the house – for example, the living room’s cleanliness rule can temporarily be relaxed. But there are other, more obvious rules that will definitely still apply, such as the ‘no hitting’ one.
For parents: It doesn’t hurt to ask
For a lot of parents, interacting with the other adult or adults is one of the more complicated parts of a playdate. And there are so many different styles of parenting, so there are different styles of food preferences, screen time usage, shoes-on-or-off rules – the list goes on and on. There may be some details you’ll want to know in advance, just so you know what to prepare for. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can help clean up, either.
For parents: Get involved…
Make sure to keep an eye on the toddlers so you can step in if you feel it’s necessary. It’s absolutely fine to use a toddler playdate as a time to get to know another parent – in fact, it’s a great way to get to know another parent! – but don’t be shy about pausing a conversation to redirect Baby.
For parents: …but not too involved
You may have had a huge hand in orchestrating this playdate, but there comes a time when Baby will need to figure things out for themselves. Intervening at every possible chance won’t give Baby the opportunity to learn how to interact with toddlers her own age, so try to step back and practice a hands-off-unless-necessary approach.
For parents: Compromise!
Compromising as much as possible will really help a playdate go smoothly. For example, if you don’t normally serve gluten and Baby doesn’t have any kind of insensitivity, it won’t hurt to allow crackers into her hands during the playdate. It won’t help Baby if your personal concerns heavily interfere with her social time, and anyway, there will be plenty of time to enforce family rules once you’re back home or after your guests say goodbye.