10 Ways to Ensure a Perfect Playdate
By Carren W. Joye
All parents want their children to have friends. Getting together with friends at the park, playing with friends at day care or preschool, or visiting with relatives are part of a preschooler’s social life. So are going over to a friend’s house and inviting them over to play for a playdate. All of these are important to facilitate friendships for your toddler or preschooler.
Unfortunately, personalities and play styles may sometimes clash during these get-togethers. However, if you are prepared, you can help these playdates go so much more smoothly. Here are 10 ways to ensure a perfect playdate.
1. Invite a small and even number of children. Inevitably, with an odd number of children, one child will be left out of the fun. Plus, fewer children mean fewer conflicts, so limit your guests to two or four, including your own child.
2. You do not have to babyproof your house completely, but make it as safe as possible and alert parents to potential dangers. Perhaps set aside a designated play area and close the doors to any rooms you do not want children to enter.
3. Put away favorite toys so your child will not have to worry about sharing. Also, put away popular toys if you only have one. For example, if you have only one riding toy, youngsters are likely to fight over it, to put it away until after the playdate. Alternatively, you could ask your guests to bring their own favorite riding toys.
4. Don’t expect too much socialization. Most toddlers and preschoolers parallel play, so do not push them to play together. Even when youngsters play side by side, they can learn a lot just by watching each other.
5. Intervene in disputes only when necessary and have alternative plans. When there is a conflict with sharing, let the children work things out on their own unless the situation escalates to violence. In this case, you may need to distract them with other activities, such as blocks, puzzles, or bubbles, so have items like these on hand.
6. Encourage cooperative play with toys such as bubbles, modeling clay, blocks, sand box, or age-appropriate games. Some parents find that starting the playdate with one of these shared activities gets the playdate off to a good start. Definitely do not turn on the television or put on a video. The children are supposed to play during a playdate, not watch television.
7. Offer snacks. This is a great way to calm things down if things start getting out of hand, or to liven
things up if the kids are bored. You can even include the kids in preparation. However, check with the
parent first to make sure the snack will not interfere with dinner or to find out about any allergies. If a
snack time would interfere with the next meal, at least offer beverages to your guests.
8. Plan for the playdate to last less than two hours. Children will get tired of each other and cranky after about an hour and a half to two hours. It is better to leave the children wanting more than to extend the time and have the playdate end with fights and tears.
9. Give a five-minute warning before leaving. This will give the children time to get adjusted to leaving.
10. Help pick up toys. Encourage the kids to clean up together, so that no one will be left with a mess. Not to mention, this will teach your children cooperation and good manners.
Carren W. Joye, homeschooling mom of four children, has founded five successful playgroups and helped start countless other playgroups around the world via the Internet. She is the author of A Stay-At-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups and the main force behind Onlineplaygroup.com.
Copyright © 2000 Carren W. Joye, All Rights Reserved Reprinted with Permission