Horizon ChildA question sent into a parenting advice columnist about younger children having playdates with older children offered suggestions for parents considering playdates with children of different ages or for parents with children who range in age.

According to "Ask Heidi": Your toddler will be exposed to the more expansive vocabulary and creative play ideas of the five-year-old. But these two children are at different developmental stages, so they’ll need your help before and during the playdate.

Give guidelines and keep watch:

Since the older child will have more language skills, you should tell the older child your expectations. The columnist suggested being firm yet gently in telling the five-year-old not to pick up or run with the toddler and added that a parent should be prepared to remind the older child of this guideline.

Pick a comfortable place:

If an older child and a younger child play at the young child's home then things will be set up to accommodate the younger child. You can also arrange to have the playdate at a playground that you think is safe for the younger child, that way there are parents around watching.

Parallel play:

It is okay if the older and younger child don’t spend the entire time interacting. Have some toys ready so they can keep each other company as they play side-by-side.

Plan for a short playdate:

You can't expect young children of different ages to play together for extended periods of time. The toddler may need a nap or the older child may get a little bored, and that is okay.

At Horizon Education Centers, children are divided by age but they still have the opportunity to see children from different age groups. Younger children can look forward to participating in activities for older children and older children can remember how much they have learned when they see younger ones.