When Sawyer Margolin has a playdate with his friend Olivia Feuerman, the kids' moms never know how much they will actually play. One minute, the 3-year-olds are inseparable; the next, they're off in their own little worlds. Even though the two have been playdate pals for a year, "they sometimes seem sort of oblivious to each other," says Rene Feuerman, Olivia's mom. "Then, suddenly they'll start playing together."
That's typical of children this age, who are definitely starting to take an interest in one another -- yet aren't quite ready to give up parallel play. But even if your toddler doesn't seem to spend much time interacting with his friends, it doesn't mean that scheduling playdates for him is a waste of time. "First friendships teach kids important social skills such as sharing, manners, and cooperation," says Annie Thiel, PhD, author of The Playdate Kids series. Even the inevitable squabbles provide valuable experiences in learning to compromise and make decisions. To get the most out of your toddler's next playdate, follow these golden rules.