|How to Have a Successful Play Date||| Print ||
|Written by Vanessa Rush|
|Tuesday, 08 June 2010 08:31|
Before cliques, dating, break-ups and office politics, comes that first and developmentally vital tradition in a human being's life: play dates. Play dates are a child's first foray into the world of friends and social rules. Kids can learn a great deal about social interaction during play dates, which is why they're so important.
For moms, play dates provide a chance for a little social interaction of our own. In the presence of other mothers, we can share our joys, concerns, and questions about parenting, or take a break from mom-talk and share gossip, laughs, and deep musings. Overall, play dates can be great experiences.
It's not always easy to find other mothers with whom to share these fun times, and even when we do, there's the task of scheduling and supervising play dates, and diplomatically handling the inevitable small accidents and clashes of will that are bound to crop up when kids get together.
Luckily, as adults, we have the ability to plan and strategize, which is all you really need for a successful play date.
Most of these tips apply to play dates hosted at home, but keep mind that play dates can be held at other locations, most commonly at local parks. Holding a play date someplace other than at home may be a good idea if one or both of the children are likely to have a meltdown over other kids' toys. It can also be a good place to meet for the first play date or two. Neutral territory is usually best when children are first getting acquainted.
General Play Date Tips
Establish time limits. It helps to have some idea of how long the play date is expected to last so you spare yourself the uncomfortable feeling of wondering whether you should leave (if you're the guest), or a similarly uncomfortable situation of wishing someone else would leave (if you're the host). Sometimes, kids don't do well with long periods of play. Shy or quiet children can easily become overwhelmed by too much activity in a group of other kids. Whatever the reason, see if you and the other moms can agree on a time slot - say from 1-2:30 p.m.- for the play date. That way everyone knows the limits and can plan their day accordingly.
Stress the importance of sharing. Play dates involve plenty of sharing, which can bring out the tantrum monster in some kids. If your child is one of them, inform him that if he wants to play with his friend, he'll have to learn to share. Needless to say, this conversation likely won't solve your child's sharing problem, but it's a start. Most kids understand the concept of sharing around the age of 4. Being in a group of children with other kids who are learning to share may help your child learn this important skill.
Deal with difficult behavior. If your child causes trouble, be prepared to deal with the situation. It can be difficult to discipline your child when other parents are watching, but it's necessary when the situation warrants it. Try to be fair and even-handed. Let other parents deal with their children while you handle your own.
Avoid comparison. Even when babies or kids in a group are around the same age, there's bound to be some differences in their growth and development. Don't get caught up comparing your child to others. It will lead to self-doubt, petty jealousies and unnecessary anxiety.
Don't bring a sick child to a play date. This one is self-explanatory. If your child seems to be coming down with something, skip or reschedule the play date.If You're Hosting The Play Date
Select and Protect. You're opening up your home to your friends and their children, but you don't have to open your entire home and all your belongings to the ravages of playing children. Select which room(s) you'll use for the play date, and if you can, close off the area. Protect your little guests by making sure the area is childproof and safe for play, with obstructive furniture moved off to side. Protect your belongings by removing from the area any item that is delicate or valuable. If your child has certain special toys she's unwilling to share (or you're unwilling to let her share) make sure they're safely out of sight.
Make sure you have snacks. Children love to munch as they play, so have a few different kinds of healthy age-appropriate snacks available. Don't forget the moms! You don't have to put out a fancy spread, but at the minimum have coffee, tea and ice water on hand, and possibly a bowl of baked chips or crackers. Be sure to ask your guests if they might have any food allergies.
Keep an eye on the pets. If you're a pet owner and want to have a play date at your home, it's probably best to contain your pets away from the children, especially the first few visits. Not everyone likes animals, and even the gentlest pet can cause minor injuries like unintentional scratches that some parents will take pretty seriously. If your friend and their kids know and love your pet, it's okay to let the animal be in the room, but lay down ground rules and keep an eye on the proceedings. Make sure kids know not to tease or play rough with a pet.
If You're a Guest For a Play Date
If your child is new to play dates or is going to a friend's house for the first time, you should go over the rules for being a guest in someone's home. Go over the basics about being gentle with other children's toys, staying out of closed-off rooms and being polite to the hosts. If there are any other rules specific to the host family, go over those as well.
Help with clean up. Your child contributed to the mess, so it's only right to help the host mom make a dent in the mountain of toys scattered across the living room.
Don't bring a ton of toys. Your child can play with the host child's toys. Bringing a backpack full of toys can lead to arguments among the other children and will clutter the host's home.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 10:23|