One of the primary ways that young children learn how to get along with their peers is by having play dates. Besides giving children social activities, play dates also let their parents enjoy a well-deserved break. If you’re a first-time parent who’s unsure of what is entailed in play date etiquette, here are some of the common questions you may be asking.
At What Age Should Play Dates Begin?
First of all, babies are too young for play dates. Even toddlers are typically not old enough to successfully play with other toddlers. But if you're a mother who's desperate for social interaction with other adults, it’s fine to get together with other moms of babies and toddlers, but don't expect the kids to know how to play together properly.
On the other hand, toddlers can still benefit from playing with other toddlers as they’re just beginning to engage in parallel play, and parents can benefit from adult conversation.
As for preschoolers, there’s really no iron-clad rule of what age a child should be as all kids are different. Much depends on factors such a child’s temperament and maturity level. While one child may be more than ready for play dates, another child of the same age may not be.
What is the Ideal Number of Children for a Play Date?
Parents often wonder how many kids should be included in a play date. Basically, this depends on the age of your child. It’s best to begin slowly, and then add more children as your child gets older. In other words, start on a “one-on-one” basis, inviting only one other child. The fewer kids you have, the more likely, they’ll play quietly, as well as independently.
Once children reach their fourth birthday, they’re more able to play with more friends. However, just consider that adding more playmates may involve you, as a parent, having to stick around more.
Time Frame: How Long Should It Last?
Again, it generally depends on the age of the children.
- Preschoolers and kindergarteners: Young children, such as preschoolers and kindergarten kids, typically do better playing together for only about one and a half to two hours.
- Early elementary school kids: By the time children are in elementary school, friends play an even more vital role. Because they’re more mature than they were in Pre-K and Kindergarten, most kids in Grades 1 through 3 are able to have play dates that are longer than two hours. It’s up to parents to set limits on when the play date should end.
- Upper elementary school students: As sleepovers are popular for kids, particularly in Grades 4 through 6, children can be together for as long as 18 hours. Be sure to have your child check in with you, or, if your child doesn’t have a cell phone, you could ask the other parent to give you a call to see how they’re getting along.
- Adolescents and teens: During the middle and high school years, children commonly hang out with peers for even longer periods of time, such as several hours weekly. If your teen plans to stay longer than overnight, you should call the other parent to ask for details of what’s planned, and if you need to have your child bring something.
When is the Ideal Time for a Child’s First Sleepover?
If you’re wondering when your child should have a sleepover, it largely depends on your kid. Although your third grader may be asking for a sleepover, he or she may still not be ready. To see if your child is emotionally ready, perhaps you should give in and just see what occurs.
Sometimes kids on a first-time sleepover do fine until it’s bedtime, and then they get homesick. Keeping this in mind, don’t get upset if you should get a call to “please come and pick me up.” Your child can always give it another try when he or she is a bit older.