Tips to make play dates great
Play dates are part and parcel of most children's lives - but they aren't always easy for parents. In fact, it can be downright frustrating having to host other children in your home or being left to worry about how your own child is coping at someone else's house. Yet these 6 tips for play dates can help.
Time it right
Make play dates happen while children are at their best - either first thing in the morning before a sleep, or after they have woken up and aren't yet worn out from the day's activities. Stay on schedule with any appointments you have for playing at other people's houses - and avoid being too early. Keep the initial play date to about two hours. This is enough time for the kids to have fun, but not so long that you'll feel overwhelmed.
It always helps to bring a backpack with an extra change of clothes, and anything your child would need on a typical afternoon out. And it's polite to bring some food or treats for the host, too! Play dates are a great way for your children to practice their social skills and gain confidence in their relational abilities, so make sure they have access to any special toys or food they like.
No picky food requests
You have no choice but to tell your host if your child has any allergies, but beyond something high-risk, it's not appropriate to dictate the dinner menu. If strange eating preferences (your kid won't eat anything orange, for example) could leave your child hungry after snack time, make it easy on your host by bringing your own.
Play dates equal responsibility
It's tempting to turn play time into a chance to “shoo” kids into another room while they amuse each other during the play date, it's still your responsibility to keep an eye on the children if you are the host. Not only should you be checking on the children regularly to avoid any incidents, but doors should remain open at all times. While it would be nice to trust that all kids are well-intentioned, lack of supervision can encourage the worst of behaviours.
Set the rules
Setting the house rules is important so kids know their boundaries - yes, even if they are guests! Taking turns, no hitting and no name-calling are three good basics to outline at the beginning of a play date. Then you can explain what happens in bad behaviour moments - is it time out, is it banishing the kids to the backyard or what?
It's also a good idea to allow 15-30 minutes at the end of each play period to start the kids tidying up their play area and leave the house looking as good as when you arrived. During play dates, you may find that the kids frequently move around from room to room which gives you a great opportunity to straighten up, dust, vacuum, or even sort through a pile of old mail!
Make it fun
Try to think of some simple activities for the kids, like playing Lego or board games. Try to stay away from TV or video games during the play date as these are activities your child can engage in alone, and you want to get the most out of this play date time. If they get really bored, give them some markers and empty boxes. Making a fort is always great fun!
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