It’s really important for children to learn to play alongside, and then with, other children. They learn important skills such as sharing, co-operative play, taking turns, problem solving, and communication and playdates are a great way to facilitate this.
Playdates are often also an opportunity for parents to make new friends too.
A playdate is meant to be fun – but sometimes the reality does not quite match the expectation. Find out how to help ensure your next play date goes well.
You will already know that your child can be unpredictable at times – and this is certainly the case when they are confronted with a new environment. Your child is still learning so don’t expect that they will skip off to play together and leave you to your cup of coffee and a chat.
For younger children you will probably see them play alongside each other rather than with each other. As they get a bit older this will change but first up they may like to just chill out in the same room and near you.
If you are hosting a play date, have a think about some of the things that might go wrong and see if you can put plans in place to avoid them.
You are probably best to only have just one child over at first, or a larger group – avoid a group of three as it’s easy for one to be left out of any joint play.
Make it clear to the other child’s parent or caregiver if you expect them to stay for a cuppa or if they are OK to head away. If they are going to leave make sure you have their mobile number. Work together to find a time period that best works around any daytime naps and set the expectation that the date will last one to two hours maximum. Keep it short and sweet so that the kids are keen to do it again.
Prepare some snacks but check any food allergies or intolerances first.
Understand that other people’s children may have different rules to yours so move anything precious, breakable or dangerous.
Have a chat with your child about who is coming over, give them some ideas of what they might like to do together, and check with them if they have any toys they are not willing to share (or decide that yourself). Pop those toys away for the duration of the play date.
When your guests arrive introduce them to everyone else in the house and make sure they know where the toilet and handbasin is.
Plan some activities in advance and have something ready for them to get started on. Its probably best for them to start off near the parents but you could set up toys in another room that they can migrate to when they are ready.
Be prepared to help the children get started – give them some ideas for play and encourage them to contribute.
Going on a play date
It’s exciting when your child is invited on a play date and you want it to go well, so a bit of planning before you go will help make it a success.
Give your child as much information as you can about where they are going, who is going to be there, and the names of other children and adults. Talk to them about using ‘gentle hands’ and other behaviour rules you have, and that you will give them the ‘five minute warning’ when it’s nearly time to leave. Tell them what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the rules – and make sure you follow through!
Let your host know if your child has food allergies or intolerances, or better still, bring a plate of food to share.
The first time your child goes to a play date at that person’s home it’s best if you stay with them. If you leave your child there let them know that you are going, that you will be back, and that the other parent knows how to get in touch with you.
What is your top tip for a successful playdate?