Playdates are almost a rite of passage for younger children. They get to go to a friend's house or local park and have a fun afternoon filled with playing with someone other than their mom or dad, and their parents get to enjoy a few glorious child-free hours or at least some time to socialize with another adult. But what happens if you're not really a fan of playdates? Is it crucial that your child goes to every playdate they're invited to, even if playdates aren't really your thing?
Emily W. King, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Raleigh, North Carolina recently told Good Housekeeping that while play is very important to a child's personal development, playdates aren't the only way for children to interact with other kids. “Playdates are not absolutely necessary if a child is getting daily exposure to children in preschool, school, and park playgrounds,” she noted, adding that socialization is important, but that can happen in a variety of places. “In other words, what is necessary is regular social exposure to same-age peers, so they can work on play skills at a similar social developmental level.”
Psychologists share their thoughts (plus, what to do about awkward parent small talk). https://t.co/6Wl20YI1Xu— Good Housekeeping (@goodhousemag) October 21, 2019
King even added that a lot of the time, playdates are more for the social aspect between parents and don't even really benefit children, especially when they're babies. “While I do think it’s important for motor and social development for babies to spend time with other babies, playdates during the infancy stage is really for the moms and dads,” Dr. King says.
Sure, playdates are a great way for kids to interact and learn social skills while playing with other children, but if parents are also expected to be at these playdates it can be uncomfortable to have to spend a few hours in the presence of someone they don't really know. “Toddlers and preschoolers need as much social exposure as they can get,” Dr. King says. “Both children and parents benefit from socialization at this point," Dr. King noted. But if going to playdates with your children gives you anxiety or they're just something you like to avoid in general, they aren't necessary especially if your child is often around other children thanks to preschool or other programs. "Preschoolers who are in preschool full time can likely get enough exposure to other kids at school,” Dr. King added.
If your child doesn't want to go to a playdate they've been invited to, perhaps because they're shy or prefer alone time, Dr. King also assured Good Housekeeping that that's OK too. “There is really no reason, or benefit, to push your child to participate in a playdate," Dr. King says. "If your child is introverted or prefers time alone after a busy school day, they are likely accessing this quiet time for a reason … to recover.”
It can be easy to feel guilty for turning down those playdate invitations, but there's really no reason for it. As long as your child is playing and interacting with children through other means there's no need to make yourself uncomfortable and say yes to every playdate invitation that comes your way.
Read Next: How To Politely Decline A Playdate