The idea of packing up baby and travelling to and from a playdate can seem a daunting proposition for what appears to be a glorified coffee date with a friend or friends. Pack up and go mommy, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.
It’s common knowledge that socialization is vital for toddlers and beyond. Getting little ones together for playdates helps to teach them social norms, such as sharing, taking turns, problem solving and and cooperating, all while enriching their play experience. Infant playdates, although outwardly less eventful, like their toddler and preschool counterparts are very important for early childhood development. So what exactly are babies learning in between the bottles, nursing sessions and diaper changes? Quite a bit actually:
Infants engage in Parallel Play, meaning they play alongside each other but rarely with each other. Although they aren’t playing interactively they are watching and learning through being challenged to explore their new or different surroundings (it might be their house but all of a sudden new people, new toys and new ways to play have appeared). For example, Baby E had a friend over yesterday who played with her favorite puzzle in a way she had never played with it, pushing the bottom piece across the floor to make a fun squeaking sound. Guess what she did later that day?
Although infants can’t be expected to share or take turns, correcting them with a simple “let’s share” when they steal a toy out of a friend’s hand or giving each a turn with a favorite toy lays the foundation for learning social cues and developing positive social interactions.
Babies emotions are highly connected to their caregivers emotions. If a caregiver is tense or upset, baby tends to follow suit. As they grow they become more and more emotionally independent. Learning how to understand and control their emotions is vital and begins in infancy. Through play babies and children alike can learn how to use their emotions and how to control them when necessary. Any mom who’s little one has grunted and screamed in dissatisfaction until they came to play knows that emotional intelligence begins at an early age.
So how does one go about having a Baby Playdate? Well for one, find other moms with babies around your little one’s age. If you don’t know anyone already, library story times or playgroups are great ways to have impromptu playdates and to meet other moms for future playdates.
Now that you’ve penciled in a playdate, what can you do to make it fun for moms and babies alike?
- Make sure the area is baby proofed. If it’s at your house, cover all electrical outlets and make sure toys are all age appropriate.
- Create a comfortable area where moms and babies can be together. At this age it is vital for caregivers to be part of the play!
Some activities you can initiate for the playdate are:
- Tummy time with babies head to head, allowing them to explore each other.
- Peek A Boo, with one baby as the “Peeker” and the other one watching
- Familiar songs and nursery rhymes, like Itsy Bitsy Spider or Pat-A-Cake that moms can sing while helping little ones do hand motions and movement.
- Free play with enticing toys. Have the other mom bring some of her little one’s toys, giving each baby some new toys to explore and share.
Have fun and Play on!