3-year-olds are extremely skilled at expressing emotions with both adults and children. They smile, hug, ask questions and have a basic understanding of feelings which means it’s a perfect age to start hosting more independent playdates.
At three children can play with other children rather than just “side-by-side” parallel play even if they aren’t quite ready to be completely free of mom or dad’s watchful eye.
Here are 5 super simple things you can do to help facilitate a happy playdate that doesn’t end in a meltdown.
Mind the time.
Set a start time and end time — 3-year-olds tend to do best with about an hour of play time. Once a child gets crabby, bored or distracted the tears are more likely to flow.
Two’s company, Three’s a possible tear fest.
While multiple children at parties and other events is a good way for 3-year-olds to hone their social skills, play dates are often better with two children. Odd numbers can mean someone could be left out and communication and sharing are a bit simpler one-on-one.
Don’t force interactions.
3-year-olds are used to playing in their own bubble while other kids play nearby (parallel play) and there’s no need to force side-by-side play. Eventually your two playmates will start to interact on their own out of curiosity and friendship.
Snack time is your friend.
Offering a small snack provides a distraction for children who are getting grumpy or bored. Not many tears are shed during milk and cookie time! Tip – Don’t offer too many choices — in this case mom knows best.
Give a 10-Minute Warning.
3-three-year olds can’t think too far in advance but a gentle reminder that Jake’s mom is coming to take him home in 10-minutes might help in transitioning to the end of a play date.
Three is a wonderful age to start building friendships and with just a bit of planning your play date is sure to have smooth sailing.