Human babies are wired to be social and as parents, we too can do with social interaction as we parent in what can be very isolated circumstances. Play dates naturally are a way to not only socialise your little one but also to get some greatly appreciated adult time with your friends too.

Here are some tips on socialising your little one:

Who – Socialise your baby with someone who’s mom or dad you get on well with – someone from a mom and baby group, your antenatal class or your little one’s play group who you have a connection with. There will come a day when you find certain play dates are hard work and this is usually an indication that the ‘mix’ of personalities is not ideal. If your baby is sensitive and tends to hold back socially, he/she will do better with little girls as friends (they play in somewhat a more predictable fashion, generally), older toddlers or quieter toddlers. If your little one is gregarious and a social butterfly, he/she will engage very happily, especially if accompanied by another social butterfly or settled baby (see my book Your Sensory Baby to determine your little one’s sensory personality)

What to play – Unstructured play is so important as this is when your little one gets to try out her understanding of roles and be creative. Try not to schedule games and activities too much in a play date. It is however a good idea to have one activity on the back burner in case things don’t go too well. Prepare a game such as hide and seek or baking, if you think your little one needs some ideas of what to play.

When – Do not schedule a play date in place of an afternoon nap. Day sleeps always take precedent. If your little one misses his/her day sleep, the interactions at the play date are likely to be strained and the chance of a fight or tears is significantly higher.

How long As a rule of thumb, a play date should be one hour per year of your child’s life – that’s how long your little one can interact before becoming over stimulated and likely to misbehave or end in tears. That is a one year old can socialise for about an hour; a three year old – three hours.

Follow these simple tips and have fun!