How to Plan a Playdate for Your Introverted Child

An introverted child plays

Since introverts take longer to open up, consistent playdates will give your introverted child more chances to connect with their friend.

When it comes to raising children, playdates are par for the course — whether you’re an introverted parent, your child is an introvert, or both. But while extroverted children may want playdates full of many friends and non-stop action, it’ll be a different story if you have an introverted child. 

After all, they’ll likely appreciate more introvert-friendly activities, like something more subdued (and quiet), and having a playdate with one or two close friends. If you need some pointers, here are some things to keep in mind when planning a playdate for your introverted child.

9 Things to Do When Planning a Playdate for Your Introverted Child

1. Examine your reasons for planning the playdate.

This one may feel like a major no-brainer. Kids have playdates. We want our kids to have fun experiences with their peers. We may notice that our introverted child doesn’t have (many) buddies and we want to help them out. 

But before you jump in and plan a playdate for your introverted child, consider your reasons for doing so and make sure it’s something your child would actually appreciate. 

Too often, introverted children are pressured into friendships or receive messages that their introversion is not acceptable — as an introvert, I know I got these messages as a child. I spent most of my adult life thinking my introversion was one of my drawbacks. Sad, right? 

Don’t make your child feel this way. These types of messages are not only harmful to a child’s self-esteem, they can also backfire and make them more nervous about reaching out. So, number one is this: Whatever you do, do not plan a playdate in an attempt to change your child or because you feel badly about their lack of friends.

2. Follow your child’s lead — let their preferences take center stage, not yours.

Despite recognizing the damaging messages my younger introverted self received, I find myself worrying (sometimes unnecessarily) over my introverted child’s social life. Do they have enough friends? Do other kids like him? Most of all, is he happy? 

Here is how I sort through my jumble of internalized introversion shame and my true concern for my children: I follow their lead. Ask questions and, most importantly, let their emotions and preferences take center stage, not your own. 

3. Help your child verbalize their wants and needs.

Some kids, especially those on the younger side, need help communicating their desires. They may already be receiving messages about what their introversion means. They may have peers or teachers commenting on their engagement (or lack thereof). So help them to make sense of it. 

I find that it helps to present a range of options: 

  • “Some kids like a lot of friends, some like one or two, others prefer to just spend time with family. What do you like?” 
  • “Sometimes, school can feel overwhelming with so many other children, how do you feel at school?” 
  • “Some people need more alone time or quiet time than others, and that’s okay. What do you think you need?” 

By asking questions like these, you can better determine what your introverted child wants — and needs.

4. Help them figure out what types of friends suit them best.

Does your child already have a buddy? Awesome! Or does your little muffin need help in branching out a bit? After following my child’s lead, I saw that underneath his declarations that he “doesn’t want any friends” was a deeper insecurity around feeling overwhelmed at school and not knowing how to approach others. He needed some support. 

Some introverted kids do best when paired with extroverted friends so as to break the ice. Others do best with a similarly matched temperament. Find what works for your child. Ask their teacher if there is someone in class they gravitate toward or share interests with. And, let’s be real, it’s always a plus to plan a playdate with a kid whose parents you enjoy sipping coffee with!

5. Plan a time and location, preferably a place that’s low-key.

Set the budding friendship up for success by starting with a relatively short playdate and don’t overschedule them. Take your child’s need to recharge into account, too, by setting aside some low-key time both before — and after — the playdate. 

Obviously, plan for a time when your child is at their best, not cranky, tired, or hungry. I tend to think that locations where the two friends can simply be with one another are preferable, rather than somewhere like a park (where there are more kids around). 

Reducing stimulation can allow them to focus on social engagement. If your child is the more introverted child, consider hosting the playdate in your home, where your child might feel most comfortable. 

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6. Arrange for high-interest (yet not overly stimulating) activities.

Help your child choose a few activities that both they, and their friend, will enjoy. Depending on the kids’ ages, talk with the other parent to see where the two might find common ground. Is she into Pokemon? Ask the other parent to pack the Pokemon cards. Does he like baking? Maybe they can decorate cupcakes together. Maybe a board game or craft project would pique their interest. 

Point being, make sure the children like the activities, but that they also won’t be things that are too draining

7. Balance parental supervision with opportunities for independence.

As a parent, it can be tempting to take over a playdate and facilitate (force) the friendship into existence. It can be a fine line between supporting kids in getting to know one another (especially if they are both introverted) and letting them build skills and move at their own pace. 

My goal is to set the stage for success and then slowly let the kids take over. For my young elementary-school-aged child, this meant initiating a board game and guiding them through it once before leaving them to one another. For other kids, it might be presenting two or three activity choices to give them ideas, and then letting them go for it. It depends so much on the age, the kids’ personalities, and the chemistry of the friendship. 

8. Consistency is key — it will probably take time for your introverted child to bond with their friend.

The friends may or may not hit it off. And things may not always be what they seem. 

When my son first started having playdates with his buddy, neither of them hardly spoke a word the entire time! It appeared that perhaps they were not enjoying themselves. However, my son assured me that he had a good time and wanted another playdate. He just needed more time to open up. 

Consistent playdates and opportunities to connect give our introverted kiddos time to feel comfortable enough to start forming the bonds of friendship. 

9. Accept, and process, the outcome.

Not all playdates will end in a magical friendship — and that’s okay. Maybe the two were not destined for one another, and you try with another child. Maybe your kid feels too overwhelmed and is not ready to form this type of bond. 

Yet maybe the playdates do turn into a beautiful childhood friendship. Whatever the outcome, talk with your child about their feelings and validate their experiences. This will only help you both in the long run.

Is social anxiety holding your child back?

Although social anxiety is not the same thing as introversion, many introverted kids experience this painful and isolating condition. The truth is your child can learn the skills to overcome their social anxiety, and our partner Natasha Daniels can show them how. This means happier school days, less resistance to social activities, more friends, and lifelong confidence. Click here to check out her online class, How to Crush Social Anxiety. For ages 10+.

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