Do We Need Playdates?

DO WE NEED PLAYDATESPlaydates. A chance to get out of the house and talk to adults for some parents, and perhaps an awkward or uncomfortable experience for others. If you’re in the first group, it can be pretty easy to find get-togethers for your toddler. Meetup.com, local mom clubs (including fitness clubs like Moms RUN This Town or Stroller Warriors) or even the old fashioned way, chatting up people at the park, are some of the different ways to socialize your toddler (and you).

Depending on where you live though, if you are a working parent or a stay-at-home dad the playdate scene might be a little hard to break into. My friend was a stay-at-home dad and said women consistently assumed he was looking for dates, not playdates, and our local mom club wouldn’t accept dads or moms that worked more than part-time. He was persistent–I think he really wanted adults to talk to, and ended up finding some good matches for his family.

If you find yourself in the latter group though where you don’t particularly like attending playgroups, perhaps because you are an introvert or are very busy, it can be worrisome to think your toddler is missing out somehow because he’s not cruising the local playdate scene. Do toddlers need socialization via playdate or other organized activity?

Between the ages of one and two to three, children engage in parallel play, where they aren’t interacting directly with their peers (other than to steal toys or knock each other over). You may have seen your own toddler sit side-by-side with another child and not really see them interact like you would see with older children.

At this age, I think playgroups are perhaps more socially beneficial to the parent than the child. However, while the children may not be actively engaged with each other, they are still watching each other and starting to learn through observation about social behavior.

If you want your toddler to get have some play time with other kids, but aren’t or can’t do playdates, you can work around it. If you hire a babysitter, consider hiring one with a child near your toddler’s age that will come along. If you have a gym membership, the gym’s childcare facility may be a place for toddler socialization as well. MOPS or Mothers Day Out are also potential options. As your toddler gets older and more interested in playing with others, you might consider enrolling her in preschool as well.

Meaghan Howard is a mother to two young boys whose sanity was saved once upon a time by her local MOPS chapter.

Tags: mom groups, MOPS, mother's day out, parallel play, playdates, socialization, stay at home dad, stay at home mom

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