Playdate Etiquette

Congratulations, your baby is a toddler! Welcome to the age of prescribed play. It used to be you could just plunk your toddler down in the backyard, maybe with a neighbour. But somewhere along the way, free play went the way of Polaroids, and playdates became a de facto entry in the postmodern parenting lexicon. Here, Judy Arnall, parent educator and author of By Judy Arnall

Q. I love the mom, but I’m afraid my toddler will be poorly influenced by her kid’s aggressive/bratty behavior. How worried should I be?

A. Kids do mimic what they see, but that can be balanced by watching more gentle
methods of socializing at home — your hugs, cuddles and responsiveness. If you feel strongly about it, see the mom at a time when you both can arrange childcare.

Playdate EtiquetteQ. My child is very excited at playdates and other moms seem to think he’s out of control and that I don’t discipline enough. What should I do?

A. Say in a loud voice to your child, “That’s okay. We are handling this.” And then whisk her out of sight. This conveys to onlookers that you are taking some control of the situation; they don’t need to know “how” you are taking action, just that you are going to address it. And sometimes you just have to smile at them and ignore any stares you get back.

Q. My friend keeps talking about how her kid is in the best classes. She’s making me feel like a slacker!

A. Your friend’s just following the false social norm that “good” parents offer endless enrichment activities for their children. Don’t take it as a put-down if you don’t: Many people don’t fill their lives with busyness, but aren’t as vocal about it. When asked what classes your child is enrolled in, say, “We are prioritizing down-time this year. We find that it’s really working for our family.”

Q. What do I do with the kid who doesn’t know how to play and just wants to watch a movie?

A. If nothing seems to entrance his attention you’ve directed them to different activities, put in a DVD for your own sanity. Think twice about another playdate, if you constantly have to keep them busy. (With preschoolers, your child can think up ideas that they both could play. The friend is his responsibility, not yours.)

Q. I hate playdates. How important is it really for my toddler’s development?

A. Playdates are absolutely not necessary for toddlers. They learn by watching other toddlers (and older kids), but can do that anywhere — trips to the zoo, church, shopping, and so forth. Learning high order social skills is really a preschooler’s work, and parents with toddlers are pretty much doing damage control until then.

More in Activities, Baby, Games, Parents, Pregnancy, Toddler, With caption or image
4 Scrumptious Smoothies Your Kids Will Love

The New Superfood Smoothie Frozen Soy Milk Fruit Smoothie with...