Your Child's First Playdate

When your preschooler invites a playmate over, be well prepared.

By FamilyTime


Preschool kids are at the age when playdates become part of their lives. Your child may have heard others talking about playdates and may beg you to arrange one for him, or you might suggest it and see how he reacts to the idea.

Either way, you will soon find yourself hosting another small child in your home. Make the experience positive for your child, her friend, and yourself.

Invite Who?

Ask your child who he or she would like to play with. If they can’t come up with anyone, suggest a few names. These should be kids they gravitate to in preschool or who they play with on the playground.

Only invite one child at a time for a playdate. When the number is three, you might find yourself constantly refereeing conflicts over toys. Worse, one of the children may feel left out.

How Long?

Playdates with kids aged three, four, and even five should be short. If they extend much longer than one or two hours, the children can easily decompress into tired, whining kids.

Limit your child’s first few playdates to an hour or so. Encourage the playmate’s parent or caregiver to stay for the entire visit or at least for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Some youngsters are not ready to watch Mom or Dad walk out the door and leave them in an unfamiliar house.

Do What?

Talk to your child before the guest arrives to make it clear that the playdate will involve sharing. If your son or daughter has a favorite toy(s) that you sense could cause trouble, suggest that this be put away while the playmate is around to avoid problems.

Help your child select toys to play with. Think of a few activities the kids might enjoy, such as coloring, playing on the backyard swings, or working with homemade play dough. All activities must be supervised by an adult.

Have a quiet activity in mind to calm the kids down if they seem too rambunctious or if they quarrel. This could be a walk down the block with the family dog, a story, or baking cookies. The television is not really a good solution. Most parents don’t consider TV viewing as “playing.”

Plan a healthful snack. Check with your guest’s parents to find out if he has any allergies or dislikes.

Playdates with children this young are not times for you to tend to other things. Make yourself available to the kids, monitor their mood and their compatibility, settle disputes, and praise both for playing nicely together.


Give the kids fair warning that the playdate is coming to an end. Suggest they start putting their games away. Tell your young guest that his mom or dad is about to arrive. This preparation avoids tears and dragging feet once it’s time for the children to part.

Some hosting parents find it easier to take the visiting child home. This turns the end of the playdate into an activity, whether it’s a ride in your car or a walk down the block.