Yet few preschoolers are ready to mix without a little adult help. Plan for a good play date by:

• Trying for even numbers of children. A group of three preschoolers doesn’t usually work. Instead, two children wind up playing together. The third is left alone.

• Offering an activity. Children can usually make up their own play. But doing a puzzle or finger-painting together can be a nice break.

• Serving a snack. Encourage all the children to help. They can count out crackers or pass the napkins around. Check with parents beforehand about which snacks are okay.

• Having the children take turns. Some children really struggle with this. If so, give the visiting child first chance with a toy. Then set a timer for two minutes. When it goes off, another child gets a turn.

• Putting away dangerous objects, such as scissors. Also, give your child the chance to put away one favorite toy, such as the teddy bear she sleeps with. Sharing such a special toy is hard for most preschoolers.

• Keeping it fairly short. One to two hours is about right for most children. End the play date even sooner if one child loses control.

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