How to Plan the Perfect Playdate Based on Personality

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Image via Katie Hurley

To come to my house for a playdate is to enter into a world of imaginary play. I'm not a plan-the-play kind of mom. I generally like to let the kids figure out what to play on their own. I find that the kids know what they want to do, and they also know when to switch gears.

For example, even though my daughter and her best friend love to play school upstairs, they almost always retreat to the backyard after about an hour. They know when they need to get some fresh air and swing for a while.

Yes, I feed them when they come looking for food and make sure they drink enough water on a hot day. If they ask for a craft, I give them a bunch of crafty stuff and let them figure out a fun project. But other than that, I give them space. I try not to get in the way of their play or guide them toward one thing or another. The wonderful thing about play, after all, is that the kids are in charge.

That said, all kids have different personalities and some kids actually crave a little structure during play. Some kids enjoy long, open-ended playdates and others prefer to keep playdates short and sweet.

The wonderful thing about play, after all, is that the kids are in charge.

Playing with other kids is important. It's fun, engaging, and a great way to spend the day, but it also helps kids learn and grow. It's also important to think about your child's needs when organizing playdates. My son, for example, plays so hard during the school day that he doesn't crave playdates very often. He's happy playing with his sister after school.

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Image via Flickr/ amseaman

For the quiet ones

It's always a good idea to take your cues from your child when planning playdates. If you have a quiet child who doesn't want playdates, that's perfectly OK. Some kids prefer to head to the local park to interact with others, some prefer to play with their siblings after school instead of friends, and some really need time alone at the end of the day.

Playdate refusal is not a sign of a child who lacks social skills. Often, it's a sign of a child who needs a break.

Try to get some park time in on the weekends. Ask before you invite others over or drop your child somewhere else. Respect your child's preferences and check in regularly.

{ MORE: To the Parent Who's Raising Their Children Differently Than They Were Raised }

role play
Image via Katie Hurley

For the ones who love structure

Some kids really, really like to have a plan. The thought of a long, open-ended playdate with no plans in place can cause stress for these kids; they like to know what's coming.

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While it's difficult to plan every single detail of a playdate in advance, it can help to determine a specific start and stop time and have your child come up with a few ideas for the playdate. Ask your child what she likes to do with that particular friend and have her make a list of possible activities.

A project of some sort can also come in handy for structure-loving kids. It can be as simple as digging through the recycling for a few things to construct a fairy house or construction paper mosaics.

If you prefer to have a specific project lined up, check in with the great people at Avery&Austin. With their subscription boxes (which include two of everything and a healthy snack), planning the perfect play date is a breeze!

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Image via Flickr/ edenpictures

For the ones who love freedom to play

It's no big secret that children lack time for free play these days. Structured activities are the new normal, even for toddlers and preschoolers. For some kids, this can be a setup for frustration. School provides a significant amount of structure, so when kids get out of school, they need the freedom to play at will, move without restrictions, and express their creative thoughts and ideas.

Try to block out as many long periods of time for free play as you can. Keep in mind that higher-level play can take an hour to plan and create for some kids, and that doesn't include the actual playing. When my kids open a restaurant, they spend at least thirty minutes setting it up — then they get down to the business of play.

{ MORE: 3 Reasons to Say 'No' to No }

Placing restrictions on play stunts creativity and deprives kids of one of their basic rights. I understand that a clean and organized house feels good to a parent, but a playful house feels good to a child. Try to find a healthy balance and empower your kids to clean up their play so that they can create something new the next time.

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How to Plan the Perfect Playdate Based on Personality

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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