Play Date Drama

Updated on May 02, 2011
B.P. asks from Bedminster, NJ
8 answers

Hi Moms,

My son just turned 3 and we sometimes do playdates with my friend's daughter who is almost 4 1/2. They are both strong willed children. My son is an only and she has a baby sister. If they are outside or at a "neutral" location, they play really nicely (although sometimes loudly as she likes to roughhouse). But when we are at one of our houses there is always major drama regarding covetted toys. Sometimes they are highly desirable like a toy microphone, othertimes its just because one of them has it and when the other sees this, they want it immediately. They both want to play their own way and its ok for the other to play as long as its on his or her own terms. There is always crying from both of them and major drama. We have taken the exciting toy away but like I said, its pretty much anything the other has. I have threatened to leave and that works for a while and redirection is hard because they both are pretty hard headed. Should we just nix in house playdates and stick to parks? I would like to have them in the house on rainy days but the crying is stressful! Oh, this does happen with other kids but to a much lesser degree because the girl will often purposefully not give the toy to my son "just because".

What can I do next?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Make up a basket of sharing toys for playdates & that's what they play with. Or gear toward activities--painting, etc.

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answers from Portland on

At my preschool, I will often see what I call "Property Disputes"--two kid upset over a toy. When I see this, I walk over and describe what's happening. "I see the two of you both want to use this toy. Here, I'm going to keep it for you until you two come up with a plan. If you need help finding a way to use it together, come and tell me." and walk away. I do not solve their problem, but I will stay close and see what sort of resolution they come up with.When one child tells me they have a plan, I check it with both of them to make sure everyone's on board. If not, I ask "Do you want some help with this?" and if they do, I try to find something that feels fair for both. If not, I take the toy with me and just put it somewhere they won't be able to retrieve it from. 9 times out of 10, this works.

I do agree that nixing in house playdates is good at this age, primarily because of these sorts of issues. What I described is more suited to wee-bit older 3s and 4s on up.

And yes, special toys should be put away before a playdate. Anything personal (loveys, etc.) should be made unavailable while the visit is happening.

Your son will be better able to do the negotiation around toys as he moves further into 3. What I best like about putting up a toy is that it allows our children to give problem-solving a good chance, and we aren't deciding 'who gets it'. NO ONE gets it until they've figured it out. And when it's their own plan, A. they aren't mad at you and B. they are better able to follow it through.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I'm sure you can understand a child's dilemma when it comes to toys. What if a friend came over to your house and suddenly she wanted to wear all of your nice clothes? They are YOUR clothes, you don't necessarily want to be forced to share them with someone else. That's how your son feels about his toys. Who can blame him? And the guest thinks that everything is a free-for-all, as young kids do at that age.

I would make up a box or basket of toys just for the playdates. Have your son help your fill the box with toys he is okay with sharing. If you have to, get some cheap, neutral toys at a garage sale.

The box of toys is for the playdates only. Be sure you keep reminding your son of this. They are not HIS toys, they are toys to be SHARED.

My mom made us do this when we had issues with our friends breaking our toys. We kept the box in the garage and as we grew up we added to it ourselves.

As for the sharing, now that you've taken the "it's mine" out of the equation you can start to really work with sharing. Now the toys don't really belong to anyone.

Since they are older, you could move away from playing with toys and move toward things like art projects. Giving them paper and crayons is a good thing to keep them occupied. So is Play doh and things that are easily shared. When you have a stack of construction paper, you can find a piece of blue paper for each--so no arguing. You can have several red crayons, etc. You could also try having them play with blocks (lots of blocks in a pack!) etc.

Good luck!

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answers from Houston on

I don't think you have to avoid anyone or anyplace...they just need to learn to share and learn to respect the other kid's space.

Kids don't always have to share things. Assign a toy to each child and make sure the other kid knows its hands off. BE FIRM and lovingly and gently enforce it. It may take a few playdates but they will get it. This is how they do it in preschool, so both kids are old enough to learn this.

I would also limit the amount of toys you have out. Don't leave them to their own devices in a room full of toys.

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answers from New York on

When my kids were small, I would let them put away anything special that they wouldn't want to share or possibly have broken. I remember my daughter being 3 and hiding all of her toys under the dining room table when a friend drove up with her daughter, lol. I'd start a rule, have a timer and let the kid who wants what the other one has know that when the timer goes off, they can have their turn but if they cry, fuss or have a fit, they will not get the toy at all.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Minneapolis on

I tell my children that when someone is in our house THEY are the guest and therefore are treated as such.

They get to choose the movie, they get served first, they get to play with a toy (they have to share it, but they get to play w/it if they want), etc. Not sure if it's too late to start this w/ her but it will serve her well as she becomes an adult. Good luck.

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answers from New York on

Weed out toys of your son that he does not play with anymore and designate them as the "play date" toys and use only them. Sharing is a very hard concept for 3 year olds. I also know many adults who don't like to share their things either. Good Luck!

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