How to Socialize the Anti-social: TODDLER PLAYDATES
By Libby Hudson Lydecker
Toddlers. The terrible two’s. Our tiny bosses from hell. Those adorable bundles of chaos and love in non stop motion. Take the energy of a puppy, the patience of a monkey combined with the communication skills of a moody cat and you have a handful on wheels. And when a mom friend suggests you get your two little people together for a social interaction in the form of a playdate, you think, “What could go wrong?”
Anyone who has ever endured a toddler playdate from hell will tell you: “Almost everything.”
Here are some basic precautions to prevent a toddler playdate fun day at the park into turning into a scene from Lord of the Flies.
- Set a time limit that is reasonable. Two hours is usually an appropriate amount of time, even for adults who don’t know each other well to have to make small talk. We can, therefore, extend the same courtesy to our children who have to make nice with this random other kid.
- Keep nap time schedules in mind. A cranky, overtired toddler can ruin a picnic faster than thunderclouds and an army of red ants. Finding that sweet spot between the morning nap and afternoon nap is worth the meticulous planning for everyone’s sanity.
- Don’t expect that the children will automatically get along. “See, Sweetie, Little Bernard likes trucks just like you do,” is almost as bad as dumping your husband with another friend’s husband under the premise that they both like college football. Although, wait, nevermind, that one usually works.
- Sharing is not in a toddlers nature. The unrealistic expectation that we should force our toddlers to share the toys they brought with them from home and are probably pretty attached to is as ridiculous as someone asking you to share your latte with them as you wait for the elevator. Are you kidding me? I might hurl anything within arms length too, if it were early enough.
- Your toddlers may not interact at all, and that is OK. You may go into the playdate with high expectations of the ultimate meeting for cute little Janie and Jack. A first meeting that they can tell their future grandchildren about someday, only to witness two little Neanderthals who barely grunt in each other’s general direction. Fear not, socialization takes time. Most adult interaction usually requires alcohol, dim lighting, and loud music, just to take the edge off.
Most importantly, just be light hearted and have low expectations. You never know, they might get along perfectly, share all their toys, and leave just in time for a blissful nap in the car. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. xoxo