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5 Ways to Make Playdates More Enjoyable for Your Kids

>> Nov 5, 2018

Playdates: they’re a great way to help your child navigate the social world outside of preschool or kindergarten. Playdates can help teach children to share, be kind, and learn from their mistakes. With all that said, though, organizing playdates can be pretty time consuming. Here are five ways to make them more enjoyable for your kids and for Micki:
     Embrace different parenting styles
     Have a game plan
     Let your child lead the way
     Establish clear rules
     Don’t worry if it’s not perfect

1. Embrace different parenting styles

Every parent does it differently. Your child may look forward to going to a friend’s house because they know they might get to watch TV shows or play video games you might not allow at home. If that’s the case, make sure to talk to the hosting parent beforehand to let them know about your own rules. You don’t have to change the way the other person parents, but you do want to make sure your child doesn’t develop unrealistic expectations about what they might get at home.

2. Have a game plan

The playdate doesn’t need to follow a rigid schedule, but it is helpful to have a general idea of how the day will go. Here are some things to think about:

     How long should the playdate be? Some children get overwhelmed after an hour; others are ready to go home after two and a half hours. Make sure to pick a time limit that works for all the children on the playdate, and schedule it for a time of day when the children are less likely to be hungry or tired.
     What crafts or games will the children do? As tempting as it might be to just put on Frozen, having one or two activities will help keep the children active and engaged. Brainstorm some simple, age-appropriate crafts or games to keep them occupied.
     Have “wiggle breaks”: children love moving around. Have a few “wiggle breaks” during the playdate to let them blow off steam. This is also a good idea if you sense that things might be getting a little tense. Children don’t always handle their emotions well, and you can diffuse a potential tantrum with some wiggles.
     What snacks should you serve? Talk to the other parent or parents about any food allergies or preferences before the playdate so you know what snacks to have on hand. There are so many fun gluten-free and allergy-friendly snack treats out there that no child will feel left out or upset for needing to eat something different.

3. Let your child lead the way

Let your child take an active role in planning the playdate. Talk to them about what friends they might enjoy spending more time with. If he or she doesn’t offer any names, look at who they spend the most time with in daycare or on the playground. Even the most social child can get overwhelmed in a big group, so keep the playdate limited to only one or two children in addition to yours.

What if your child seems to enjoy playing alone, even when there’s another kid around? “Parallel play” is completely normal for children who are two and younger. The children may seem to be playing by themselves but are actually learning from and copying each other. This is a powerful learning stage in your child’s development.

Don’t stress about the number of playdate invitations your child gets. This has nothing to do with how popular he or she is, especially when they’re young. Other parents at daycare or preschool are still figuring out how to help their own children develop the right social skills, and the result is often a revolving wheel of friends. 

If the playdate is at another parent’s house, take a cue from your child about whether the playdate should be one where you stay or drop them off. The other parent might love having you around to socialize with, but your independent five-year-old may be ready for you to hit the road.

4. Establish clear rules

Flexibility is important, but when it comes to discipline, clear rules are important. If you are hosting a child for a playdate with your kid, make sure they know what behaviors are and aren’t allowed in your home. Is jumping on the couch a no-go, or is it okay to stomp around the basement? Remember that you aren’t a stand-in parent for the visiting child. You don’t have the authority to discipline them the way their parents do at home.

Fortunately, many children will work through conflicts on their own. Whether it’s someone hogging the red crayons or knocking down a block castle, children have a pretty incredible capacity for saying “it’s no big deal.” Resist the urge to swoop in and handle the situation on your toddler’s behalf. Playdates are a great opportunity for kids to learn how to manage their emotions productively in a group setting.

5. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect

Social media has coached us into expecting perfection in every area of our lives: why can’t my toddler be as cute as that celebrity’s daughter? You might dream of a perfect playdate where everyone colors inside the lines and finishes their juice boxes. Let go of that idea. You and your child will have more fun when you anticipate messes on the floor. Kids will be kids, and the messes they make will turn into memories you’ll cherish. Another good idea: make your child's playdate more fun with singing along.

Sing-Along songs

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This blog contains articles in family topic.
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