THE first playdate with other children can sometimes be nerve-wracking for parents, as there's always that worry they might not get along.

However, socialising with each other is so important for our kids' development, and it's of course a joy to watch them make new friends.

But do you ever feel anxious about your child meeting up with other kids?

Don't worry. Here,childminder with childminding specialists tiney Fatima Ali reveals her top tips for a stress-free playdate…

Step in when they snatch

When young children are discovering how the world works, they might sometimes forget how to cooperate in a socially acceptable way.

For some children this might manifest itself as grabbing things and running away – rather than asking politely and playing gently.

Whenever one of the children I’m looking after grabs or snatches something from somebody else, I always ask them to give it back to the child who was using it and ask nicely if they may take their turn. 

Reminding children regularly to ask and wait before taking things will reinforce good behaviours and help them understand how to be patient and respectful of others’ things.

Bake cakes or get gardening

Cooperative games and activities are a great way to introduce children to the idea of sharing as they play.

Cooperative games create opportunities for children to work together whilst doing something fun.

It gives them the chance to experience how sharing, communicating and cooperating can help them build friendships and feel good about themselves.

When planning a cooperative activity, try to ensure there’ll be no winner and loser and that the children will need to take it in turns and share materials.

Good things to try include jigsaw puzzles, baking, gardening or building a den. Another fun one that my children enjoy is a game of ‘follow the leader’, where every child gets the opportunity to be the leader and dictate actions to the rest of the group, like ‘touch your toes!’, ‘wiggle like a worm!’ or ‘jump in a circle!’.

It can get loud and silly (!), but ultimately every child is focused on listening to one of their peers and sharing the spotlight.

During these activities, if anyone isn’t willing to cooperate, you can ask them to either give others their turn or miss their own.

Encourage visitors to bring toys

Children often cannot resist a new toy.

So encouraging their playmates to bring a toy when they visit is sure to pique your child’s interest.

Your child will then have to navigate how to get a turn playing with the new toy that belongs to their friend.

This is a great way to get children practising sharing. They might realise that in order to play with their friend’s toy, they will have to let them play with one of their own. 

Try not to get involved unless it’s necessary.

Encouraging children to navigate this situation will help them to understand the concept of give-and-take; and that in order to have something they want they must learn to cooperate and share with others. 

Look at your own behaviour

It’s never too early to talk about and demonstrate respectful ways of treating other people.

So whatever you’re doing with your children – whether you’re watching a film, reading a book, on a play date or interacting with them throughout the day  – don’t be afraid to start conversations about sharing, point out good behaviour and show them what this looks like in practice.

Setting boundaries in order to model good behaviour can also help.

For example, if they’re desperate to play on your iPad for a few minutes, you can say ‘Mummy is using it now but you can have it in ten minutes. You can use it for fifteen minutes but then after that mummy will need it back’.

When the time is up (use a timer if necessary) stick to your word and enforce the boundary.

This will help children explore ideas about what sharing looks like, how to be respectful of others and how to take turns.

Give kids plenty of time to play freely

Negotiating things like sharing is an essential part of growing up.

So if you give children plenty of opportunities to play with others and explore different ways of communicating, they will soon come to understand the benefits of playing nicely and sharing.

Ultimately, when young children don’t play nicely or share, they might end up feeling rejected when other children aren’t so keen to play with them.

When their behaviour has negative consequences and makes them feel bad, they will soon realise that they need to change their approach.

As a parent or childminder you should encourage, explain and reinforce what good behaviour looks like.

But you should also give your child plenty of opportunities to test the waters for themselves.

Playing, socialising and interacting with others will help them understand that playing nicely and sharing pays off, by helping them build close friendships with their peers, feel good and have more fun. 

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