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Building friendships are not the only key to your child’s health and happiness by growing social-emotional connections, they are also part of the foundation your child will build throughout her life!

When do we start building friendships? The answer is, it can start right away, at any time! A large percentage of children will form their first friendships in their preschool, play groups, and through their community. Socializing your child at an early age allows her to find and form those friendships that may last a lifetime! Just spending time with groups of children allows her to explore her surroundings, understand social cues, and exercise her mind, body and spirit.

Apart from some of the more natural ways your child meets other children her age, it is still important that she gets certain amounts of time and opportunity to connect one-on-one with another child. Meeting parents who have children your child’s age is a perfect opportunity to create a safe place for a friendship connection. Children take cues from their parents, so the more you expose them to friendships and play dates, the easier they will learn to form that relationship.

Play dates are a great way to start the lifelong process of friendship. Take an hour or two of your day and see if another parent you know wants to get together. Play dates can be hosted at home, at a park, or at any other child-friendly location where there are lots of fun things to do! In order to help break the ice between two children, it’s a good idea to have planned activities ready. For example, if you’re hosting at your home, set up some games or toys that would interest both children and foster cooperative play. When you’re at a park, ask one child to sit in a swing and the other push, or start a simple game of toss between both children. The more collaborative activities you plan, the more likely your child will begin interacting with their new friend in a positive way.

Play dates are good for almost any age! When she is an infant, play dates can consist of tummy time with another infant. As a toddler, it can graduate to simple games, and by the time they hit preschool and school age, they’ll be playing games together all on their own! The skills built for play dates will translate into the rest of their lives, allowing them to make friends at school, in the workplace, and beyond!