A parent's guide to making friends at the playground
Age: 1 year 5 months
Meeting new friends as an adult can be, well, awkward. When there’s no common ground to reminisce about and there are no mutual friends to help break the ice, meeting fellow parents can feel a lot like dating, leaving you wondering if you hit it off enough to warrant another get-together.
Location is key when it comes to meeting other parents, and the playground is a perfect place to start. You already have something in common - children, probably around the same age - and there’s a good chance you live near one another if you’re at the same park. If your eyes meet across the sandbox, and you feel that spark, it may be time to take the next step and start the conversation.
- Be bold: Say hello. It seems simple enough, as socializing is something you’re probably encouraging your baby to do, but it’s easy to stand around waiting for another parent to make the first move. If you’re shy, take a deep breath and just say hi. Make a comment about how well your children are playing together or, if they’re not, there’s always the option of chatting about the weather. Chances are, after spending so much time with a toddler, the other parent will welcome the opportunity to converse with someone who speaks in full sentences.
- Find something in common: You already have one thing in common - you’re both parents. But there’s probably more to it than that - do both of your children love the swing, or digging in the sand? Make a note of that, maybe tell a funny story about the first time your child came to the park. Your new parent friend will probably further the conversation with an anecdote of their own. Sometimes, you have to give a little to get a little in a conversation, but after you’ve offered the opening, there’s a good chance that your potential parent-friend will take a turn next.
- Appropriately interact with their child: Parents love when people are kind to their children, so engage their child through your own in a positive way, like encouraging your baby to share. It’s also important to remember that children at this age are still developing social skills, and every child is at a different level with them. It’s generally a bad idea to try to discipline someone else’s child, even if you feel like they’re slighted your own. Instead, try commenting on how well the other parent handled the situation. If it looks like your baby and the other child really aren’t going to get along, it’s also possible that this particular parent-friendship isn’t meant to be.
- Plan to meet again: It’s time for the other parent and child to go home for their child’s nap, but if you feel you’ve all hit it off, don’t hesitate to suggest that your children play again soon. While a home playdate might be a bit forward in the early stages, asking if the other parent would like to meet at the playground again at the same time (tomorrow, next week) is a great way to start forming a friendship between yourselves and your children.
Meeting other parents can feel intimidating, but they’re in the same boat as you are, and parents definitely long for adult conversation when most of their days are spent with a little one. Besides, making a new friend with a child means your child will have a new friend as well. Double the fun!
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