How important are play dates? My son goes to preschool.

Even if your son attends preschool, play dates provide children with a wonderful opportunity to practice important social and emotional skills – some of which your son might not have the opportunity to practice in school. For example, play dates allow children to interact and play with children of different ages (whereas most of the interactions at school are likely be with same-age peers). Play dates also give children the opportunity to interact one-on-one or with a smaller group of children. Playing in different environments also requires children to draw on different skills. For example, some children find it more challenging to share their own toys and possessions, so having a play date at your house is a great way to help your son practice taking turns and learning to share. At this age, it is usually best to keep play dates relatively short (90 minutes to 2 hours) so your son does not get overtired. It is also important to note that your son will likely play side-by-side with his peers (a type of play called parallel play) rather than interact with his playmates, and that this is a developmentally appropriate type of play at this age. 

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

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