Playdate pressure. Does my toddler need to hang out with other kids? Babble.com’s Parental Advisory.

What’s a good age to start getting your kid together with other kids? Frankly, it sounds like a pain in the ass to make social engagements for my kid when it’s hard enough for me to get off work and hang with her. Not to mention how stressful it is to compare one’s own kids with others. My daughter is one year old and so far we haven’t “done” playdates.

- Antisocial in Astoria

Dear Antisocial,

You may hear various rumblings about peer interaction, parallel play and social development. Later on in life (exactly when is debatable) there’s a lot to be said for your child hanging out with other kids. But let us assure you, a one-year-old is not missing out on anything by spending her free time with you alone instead of with you, an adult you hardly know, and a kid she will probably barely notice. A typical young toddler playdate involves two kids playing separately, orbited by two grown-ups, each largely focused on keeping their charges from falling over, eating something disgusting or electrocuting themselves. And yes, it is likely that the adults involved will be comparing children, consciously or not.

Playdates do serve some purposes, not the least of which is filling out the daily schedule, and providing the slim chance of a disjointed adult conversation (perhaps not as likely at this age as with a younger or older child). Playdates form a social network for parents, which can be a source of security for those who enjoy such things, and a source of anxiety for those who don’t. If you’re looking to bond with other parents, playdates can be a good start – just prepare yourself for the possibility of a mind-numbingly boring or jaw-clenchingly irritating conversation if that mom who seemed interesting in the park turns out to be a dud. But if you have no desire to get on the social circuit, you don’t need to worry about it for a while.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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