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The ABCs of Toddler Playdates

Playdates can be valuable learning experiences for you and your little ones. Here's how to make the most of your child's social calendar.

Playing with Shy Children continued...

But while parents should be there for their kids in case anxiety strikes, don't insert yourself into the middle of the fun.

"Don't try to orchestrate the play, which isn't good for kids,"  Kathy Harlow, program director for the North Suburban Family Network in Melrose, Mass, says. "They should explore their own creativity and use toys they way they want."

Playdates can also be tough if you feel like your child isn't exactly a social butterfly.

"There's no such a thing as being too shy for a playdate," Berman says. "It's a terrible label that gets a child stuck in a position with a negative connotation."

While your child might take longer to warm up on a playdate, the experience is just what he or she needs to feel more secure. If you really feel like your child will be uncomfortable, bring a "transitional object," Berman says. For instance, bring a blanket or teddy bear that your child can turn to for help if he feels nervous.

What’s in It for Mom or Dad?

While kids are busy interacting, learning, and hopefully sharing, there is equal benefit in a playdate for parents.

"It's nice to sit with another mom and have the 'Me, too!' experience," Berman says. "'You were up all night with the baby? Me, too!' Or, 'You don't know what type of formula to use? Me, too!'

"These are important opportunities for the parent to connect with people who are going through the same things they are."

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