Ask the Expert: My child finds it hard to share on play dates
Play dates are best kept on a one-to-one basis, especially if a child needs support with learning to mix and share. Photograph: Getty Images
Q I am looking for some advice on helping my daughter, who is an only child, when she has her friends over to play.
She has just started back in senior infants and lots of the girls in the class are visiting each other’s houses for play dates, and so on, and she has been asking about this.
Up until last year I was working full-time but now I have reduced hours to three and a half days. Last year I tried to arrange play dates in our house and used to have a few of her classmates over on my days off.
However, frequently it wouldn’t go so well, with my daughter becoming bossy and refusing to share, and so on. She was keen to have them over but then found it hard when they came.
I am a little bit worried about her mixing with other children in these situations. What can I do to help her and what is the best way to organise play dates?
A As they grow up, friendships are very important to children in lots of different ways. While some children seem to effortlessly make friends, many find it hard at times and need special support from their parents. Navigating friendships in schools can be a particular challenge when, as a parent, you are not there to help your child. Organising play dates and activities with other children is an excellent way to support children making friends – though as you have discovered, these can take a bit of care and attention to set up.
Stages of friendships
In senior infants, when children are five or six years old, they are just at the beginning stages of making choices about
As pre-schoolers, children are generally happy to let their parents decide what other children they might meet on visits but once they start school they begin to develop their own preferences.
At this age, they begin to discover their own special interests and talents and seek out other children who might share
these common interests.
They might not yet be at the stage of developing “best friends” but can clearly get on better with certain children. As a parent, it is important to be sensitive to your children’s preferences while also making sure to continue to introduce them to a wide range of children so they can learn how to get on with lots of different people.
Set up one-to-one play dates in your home
Play dates and visits are best kept one to one, especially if you feel your daughter needs extra support with learning to mix and share.
Play dates with three or more children are fraught with problems such as exclusion and competition which can make them extra challenging. In particular, the “host” child can find it hard to manage two children in her home and to let them share her toys and games.
While it is a good idea to introduce your daughter to lots of different children, generally this is best done one to one at different times of the week.