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Toddler Playdates: The Fun Starts Here

Get tips for toddler playdates and raising toddlers to keep the good times going and keep whining at bay.
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Sick of hearing "He took my toy!"? Here’s how to keep the good times going—and the whines at bay.

Leave them alone. "I try not to dominate playdates, which starts with being in a place where the kids can be safe without the mommies having to hover, like someone’s backyard or a local children’s museum or activity center," says Traci Rieser, a mother of one in Austin, Texas. "The kids learn to work things out between themselves. Of course, stepping in is sometimes necessary, but the kids have more fun when we let them explore their surroundings and relationships themselves."

Don’t sweat the sharing. "Sharing is not in a toddler’s vocabulary—this stage of development is still about parallel play," notes Julianna Lichatz, a Carbondale, Colorado-based movement teacher and play expert. That means toddlers may play beside each other, but they don’t really play with each other. "So while explaining and encouraging the concept of sharing is constructive, forcing it on small children is not." Kids start getting more interactive around age 3 or 4.

Distract! "A bottle of bubbles is like magic for toddlers: It can put an immediate end to a dispute over this toy or that toy," says Jenni Brighton, a mother of three in Homer, Alaska. "Logic and reasoning won’t work with a 2-year-old, but bubbles work every time."

Get physical. "Crawling, climbing, and rough-and-tumble play are ideal for toddlers’ developing physical coordination and senses," says Lichatz. "Toys that children can move—like push toys, balls, trucks, or cars— engage toddlers in this way, and are also great for imaginative and cooperative play."

Take it outside. "I’m part of a local mom’s group. Once or twice a week, a few of us will get together for an impromptu playdate at a nearby park or playground," says Pinky Yoshimoto, a mother of one in Waipahu, Hawaii. "It doesn’t require any serious planning or cleanup, which is great for me, and my son loves it!"

Have a theme. "We’ve created a playgroup with three other families—we all met in daycare several years ago—and come up with creative activities for each get-together," says Liz Weirshousky, a mother of two from Bethesda, Maryland. "We recently did a cake-decorating party, where we bought little round cakes from the supermarket with plain white frosting. Each kid got to add colored frosting and sprinkles to their hearts’ content. It’s a blast!"

An article from the HUGGIES® Brand

  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 5reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I used to feel guilty about catching up with my friends while our kids played nearby. I'm glad to know that they can learn from each other with some redirection from adults. I used to think that playdates needed to be scheduled and educational--oy, playing is how they learn! I'm having more fun watching my two little toddlers play together and worrying a little less about how they're playing. :) January 6, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by My son plays well with others his age, or he did..... Some of the other kids in his room at daycare are biters.... Soooooo now when he wants a toy that another child has even at home he will try to bite you... With positive redirection and some useful tips from your articles this too shall pass.... September 26, 2013
    Rated 0 out of 5 by my son is getting to the age where he needs some social interaction with other kids his age. this article had some good tips and ideas. Thanks! August 12, 2012
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Love creating a theme idea...Nice article with great points May 27, 2012
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