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Is Your Child Ready for a Drop-off Playdate?

Your preschooler's got her first invitation to play at a buddy's house without you tagging along. How to figure out if she's ready to go it alone:

[BOLD {Does she enjoy getting out of the house?}] If your child's a homebody, let her come with you to visit the neighbors  -- going to different people's homes will help her feel more comfortable away from her own.

[BOLD {Can she adapt to other households?}] Some kids may feel overwhelmed by their friends' siblings and pets. Let her know what to expect  -- "Sarah has an older brother named Matthew, and a dog."

[BOLD {Will she leave you?}] If your preschooler still struggles with goodbyes when you head for the door, start talking: Try to get her excited about the playdate ahead of time by stressing how much fun she'll have. But if she clings for more than a few minutes after you get to the friend's house, stay with her or leave and try again in a month or two.

[BOLD {How well does she handle conflict?}] Since you won't be around to mediate squabbles, and can't really guarantee how interactive the other parent will be, your child needs to know how to control her temper and calm herself. To help her learn, let her work out fights with her friends or siblings without your stepping in.

[BOLD {Can she say what she needs?}] Your child should be comfortable telling another adult, "I have to go to the bathroom" or "I'm thirsty." To help, try role-playing at home; she'll get the practice she needs before her big afternoon out.