Play dates are a great way for parents and children to get together. Whether infants or toddlers, all children benefit from the socialization of others. As newborns, there won’t be much playing other than reaching out to another on a blanket. And even some early toddlers are reluctant to play with others. Below is a simple timeline of how play skills develop followed by some ideas to encourage socializing.
0-2 years: Sensorimotor Play
Play the is characterized simply by sensory and movements. ie. chewing on toes, dropping a toy out of the stroller to hear it crash, stomping in a puddle
12 months: Pretend Play
Pretty self-explanatory. Pretend drinking from a cup, feeding a baby doll a pretend bottle, talking on a plastic phone
0-2 years: Solitary play
Children are playing independently with separate toys, mostly unaware that another child is playing next to them
2-4 years: Parallel Play
In this stage, children are still doing their own thing while playing next to one another but may begin to imitate their friend. ie. banging on blocks, going to the play kitchen and getting fake food for a baby doll. They may even swipe toys from one another, because they’re two and they don’t know what sharing is yet. Did you hear that? Up until 4 years old, children have yet to grasp the idea of independently sharing.
4-5 years: Associative Play
Finally! They’re playing together! At this age, children are actually playing from the same bin of blocks or wooden trains. While still somewhat doing their own thing, there isn’t much coordination to build a tall tower together but are sharing (and fighting over) the same toys.
Play date Ideas:
Newborns: Set them up for tummy time facing one another, or looking into a large mirror together, pour you and your mom friend a coffee.
6-12 months: Bins of sensory materials ie: a bin of different brushes, a bin of stuffed animals, a bin or flash lights/push lights/christmas lights, a baking sheet of water, a bin of musical instruments, a bin of books
12-36 months: Play food, muffin pan, tea set, blocks, trains, anything that provides enough materials for everyone while they are able to play on their own, remember, there is no such thing as sharing yet!
Now, go play!