There’s a lot to like about playdates: parents have a chance at adult conversation, and kids get to enjoy new toys and a new space while learning social graces and making friends. Sometimes, though, the early moments of a playdate can be a little awkward with the younger set. I often find that my kids and their playmates hover nervously near their respective mothers, eyeing one another suspiciously while we parents urge them to “Go play!”
Lately, if I’m hosting a playdate, I’ve taken to planning an icebreaker activity. Having a designated activity—generally a simple craft or building project— to jump into for the first few minutes of their time together seems to help the kids relax a bit, enabling them to then move more smoothly into co-play. Parents still have to be pretty involved for that icebreaker, but it gives us something particular on which to focus our attention rather than simply choosing toys at random and urging them on our skeptical children. After the icebreaker is done, the kids are generally comfortable enough to play a bit more independently so we adults can enjoy some conversation.