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Play dates have been a Godsend for my children and I. My husband and I both went away to college and it just made more financial sense to stay where we went to school as opposed to returning to our home town.
The drawback to this is that all our friends and family live three-and-half hours away. Play dates gave my kids the opportunity to interact with people outside of my husband and myself. They were also able to make friends and have a great deal of fun!
Play dates give children an opportunity to practice sharing, problem solving, and interacting with peers. These are all skills your child will need later on in order to make and keep friends. The following tips can ensure that your child gets the most from their play date.
1. Choose the right time. It doesn’t matter how many cool toys your child can play with, if they are cranky, no one is having fun. You know your child best, so you are the best judge of knowing when to schedule a play date. Play dates worked best for my children any time after breakfast but before nap time. This way I knew they were fed and well rested.
2. Keep play dates between 60 and 90 minutes. Play dates beyond this time frame might cause your child to get cranky and feel overwhelmed. If play dates are too short, your child is likely to get upset when they have to leave in the middle of doing something they enjoy. It also won’t give them enough time to interact with their playmate.
3. Keep security toys out of sight. Some children get attached to a specific toy and will freak out if someone even looks at it. To prevent meltdowns, leave these toys at home. Children have a hard enough time sharing. It’s unlikely that they will start by sharing their favorite toy.
4. Provide toys that encourage cooperative play. Blocks, art supplies, Legos (Lego Duplos for the little tikes) are all good options. Otherwise try and have toys that come in multiples (i.e. cars, trains, etc.).
5. Give your child the chance to problem solve on their own. Young children aren’t likely to talk things out. The idea is for parents to not automatically jump in when their child gets upset with their playmate. When a problem crops up between the playmates, monitor your child for a minute or so and see what they do. This will give them a chance to try and work it own on their own. Again use your judgment. If you know your child’s go to response is to hit, then you should intervene.
6. Let the kids have fun. I use to get so flustered when my son would play roughly with toys and hoot and holler on play dates. I mean what would people think of me with my child behaving like a cave man! Sometimes as parents we micro-manage our children because we believe how they behave is a direct reflection of our parenting skills. That’s our baggage. Let your child have fun and correct them only when absolutely necessary.
Hopefully these tips make your next play date a success.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also enjoy reading 5 Indoor Play Activities.