4 Year Old Wants Time Alone at Playdates

Updated on May 29, 2012
H.M. asks from Columbia, MO
9 answers

Hi Mamas!
I have a four-year-old girl who is an only child. We are a family of three with two dogs and two cats. My daughter has never been in daycare but we have frequent playdates with other children and she was in preschool two mornings a week this year. Her teachers reported that she was good with the other kids, played nicely with others and they never indicated a problem.

She had a playdate with a friend up the street today. We're just getting to know this family. My daughter had preschool with the little girl and I really like her mom. She also has a two-year-old son. The little girl up the street will turn 4 in June, she's about 6 months younger than my daughter, and they clearly have different energy levels. My daughter is laid back and the other little girl is super spunky and gets very excited. And as my daughter's an only child, she's used to entertaining herself.

Well, when I arrived at my friend's house to pick my daughter up from a two-hour playdate, my friend told me that the girls played great for the first hour and then after that, my daughter said she wanted to play alone. That she needed some alone time. She asked my daughter if she wanted to go home and she said no. She asked her if she liked playing with her daughter, and she said yes, but she just wanted to have some alone time. This isn't the first time I've heard this from my daughter. She's asked me if she can go in time out for alone time before, she's said she wanted to be alone before when there are a lot of rowdy kids at the park. We have another friend who we've been playing with since our kids were 18 months old, and I've never heard her ask for alone time when they're together, so it's not across the board.

My question is, is this something I should be worried about? Is this normal behavior for an only child? Or do you think it's just her temperament? Or is it just a product of being an only child and being around adults a lot? I have to admit, the house she played at this morning is a little chaotic. One or both of the kids are usually crying about something. It's possible my daughter just felt overwhelmed by all the noise. I get that way sometimes too.

Just as an aside, I work from home full-time, but I have a flexible schedule, so she and I spend a lot of time together. And then there are also times when I ask her to play by herself for 30-45 minutes so I can get something done for work. Either way she's fine. She plays with the dogs, or keeps herself busy coloring or playing in the yard. I'm not complaining, she's a great kid, but I just want to make sure socially she sounds like she's doing ok.

Thanks for your words of wisdom!

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answers from San Francisco on

I think she's just not used to so much commotion coupled with the fact that she does enjoy playing alone. When she plays alone,. she gets to play the way she wants to play. Playing alone at the friends house afforded her the opportunity to play the way she wanted to play with "new" toys. I don't think there is anything to worry about. In fact, to me it says that she's self-confident and secure and doesn't need the approval of her peers!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Hi Hilary,
I have an almost 4 year old son.
We do about 2 playdates a week. He is also an only child.
I have seen this behavior from him and the other children. Some children want to play together the whole time and some need some alone time.

From this I have also learned that our best playdates start with a snack, have some playtime, end with a snack at the table as well. It ensures they start and end together. Also, i limit most playdates to 90 minutes about....I would rather end one early and have them both wanting to play more ...than to have one tired and wanting to leave.

Does that make sense?

Best, Jilly

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

It is good, that your child can speak up, and knows herself.
So I would not treat her as though something is "wrong" with her.
She has her own disposition.
And she knows when she wants alone time.
I teach my kids that. My kids are 5 and 9. They don't have to be playing together all the time. IF they want to just be alone, they say so. And they tell me and/or their sibling.
My kids know themselves very well, and their emotions.
So I see that as a good thing.
They are not followers. They know themselves.

Every child, has different dispositions. But not all kids know themselves or can say what they need. Your daughter can. That is good.
Nurture that in her.

Not all kids, have to be constantly interacting.
Every kid has a different personality.
Its okay.
It is okay.

Your daughter seems fine to me.

My daughter does not like rowdy kids either.
She CHOOSES her friends.
And she chooses well.
I am proud of her.
She knows what makes her tick, and what friends are compatible.
Just like adults, kids click or not, with other kids. Its okay.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Your daughter sounds like me when I was a kid...and I am still that way. I am an introvert. I like people and I like socializing to an extent, but I love my alone time. I am happy and content being alone and I keep myself entertained. My personality never prevented me from having a great life. I finished college, had plenty of jobs, got along great with co-workers, got married, had kids, and yes, I do have friends too. As long as your daughter is happy and doesn't complain about her life, let her be. She just beats to a different drum.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Well, I have been thru this, sort of. My son is 9 and is ADHD, VERY active, funny and outgoing. His BEST friend at school is the exact opposite, very quiet, introverted, slow, etc. Well, they LOVE and HATE eachother! My son is just "too much" sometimes for the other boy. So they have to have breaks from each other. Maybe the other little girl is just too much for your daughter and although she likes to play with her, she can only take so much. So maybe she just needs shorter play dates. And let the other girl know she needs to tone it down a bit when she's around your daughter. I got together with the other boys mom and we figured out a game plan where they could still be together but not drive each other crazy. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

i think thats normal. my 5 year old is how you describe your girl...except she wants M. to play with her and not play alone...but my niece is very active and between 2-4 my daughter would always ask for time to calm down or to read or watch a show when around her...at 5 she feeds off of her energy

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Well, I have a "spirited child." And recently read the book "How to Raise Your Spirited Child." In that book they talk about introverts and extroverts and how extroverts get their energy from other people and introverts get their energy by having down time/quiet time/time alone. So, I wouldn't worry. Your daughter is obviously an introvert and must know this. Good for her for recognizing when she is feeling overwhelmed by being around people and a high energy friend and actually speaking up about needing alone time. I think that is great!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Mercy me, Hilary, I think your child is just overwhelmed sometimes with activity that's not normal for HER! I was an only child for almost 6 years in a household of adults - then I became the eldest to 6 more! It's good that she can entertain herself & tolerate playing with other children, also. Some children's energy is just overwhelming to her. You can talk to her about the difference in households & the difference energy levels for children. I think you're doing great with your child so RELAX & enjoy each other! Do not worry! :)



answers from Atlanta on

No I don't think is something to be worried about. She's just this kind of kid. My niece is an only child and she's the same way. But even kids with siblings do this, some do it more than others. Everyone wants to be alone sometimes. And I agree I'm sure it was overwhelming for her there.

I'm sure she's socially sound. And really you don't need to worry about so much playmate stuff at this age anyway.

The best to you and your daughter dear