Play dates are hit or miss. They are great ways for my kids to interact with peers, learn socialization skills and practice good sharing skills, but a lot of the success depends on how I manage all the kid’s time together.
Here are five tips that I use when I have play dates to avoid mayhem, which often does ensue regardless of my efforts:
1. Try to limit the number of guests to one. For some reason, in my house, three is a tough number. There is always one odd man out. When my daughter has two friends over, she inevitably breaks into tears, claiming that the others are ignoring her. Attention becomes a huge factor. When my son has two friends over, he wants both kids to shower him attention and he can’t quite contain himself. One-on-one interaction is just so much easier. Whenever there are three kids here, someone also tends to get hurt and I have to ignore the others. After a certain age, probably around five years-old, just stick to twosomes.
2. Make a plan with the kids at the start of the play date. Ask them upfront what they’ll be doing, what games they’ll be playing, what rooms they’ll be visiting, what they want to eat/drink, whether they want to go to the park or not if the weather’s nice. Sometimes I even write out a schedule for the play date so it goes in an orderly fashion, rather than chaotically, which can happen at any point when a disagreement occurs. This way, all the kids know what’s going to happen as the play date merrily rolls along and things should go smoother as a result.
3. Talk to your child about sharing before the play date arrives. My son has a plasma car that he won’t let anyone use. He insists that his friends don’t know how to use it, therefore they can’t touch it. The other kids usually get very upset and a tug of war ensues. I really need to remove it from the house now that the weather’s nice. If I don’t remove it altogether, I’m definitely going to put it aside next time he has a play date. It’s wise to think about these things before the kids arrive at the door. Talk to your child about what he/she will share before the kids come. Once they’re in action, encourage all the kids to share, but don’t make it a big deal. The more you talk about it, the less likely they are to share…at least here in this house.
4. Always have some tricks up your sleeve, like making cookies, interesting crafts, scooter riding, dress up, tattoos, bubbles, sledding, sprinkler, etc. When things start to go downhill, distract the kids with different types of activities than they’re used to doing.
5. Lastly, don’t struggle with who your child plays with; set up play dates with the kids they are most comfortable with. If a play date doesn’t go well, there’s no need to push the kids together another time. Stick to the friends your child wants to be around. If you get push back from another mom about a play date, don’t take it personal and move on. Play date politics stink, and you don’t need them. Make your life easier and set up play dates with the moms that are easy to get along with and who’s kids genuinely want to play with your kids. Don’t chase anyone for a play date. There are more important things to worry about.
Hopefully, if you use these five simple strategies, your child’s play dates will be less painful and more enjoyable for everyone.
What are your tips? Please comment here with your advice.