By Amita Bhardwaj
Playdates, a relatively lesser-known concept in our country until recently are here to stay, with nuclear family structures and busy schedules of parents. While they sure help children develop social skills as well as also learn important lessons in sharing and taking turns, a lot however goes into making a successful play date. Here are some handy tips that can make those playdates oodles of fun:
This is especially true for younger kids as well as for those first playdates with new friends. An hour to an hour-and-a-half as a broad thumb rule usually works well. You would want the kids looking forward to their next outing together!
It is a good idea to prepare the child in advance so he or she knows what to expect during the playdate. The more prepared they are, the less the chances of their feelings being hurt about having to share their toys and other belongings. You can even simulate a playdate in advance with you/parents acting as playmates. Overall, the preparation for the playdate, as for life, should be around the premise of sharing and caring. It is also important to remind the child that if other children do not work with the same principle, it is best to remain calm as that gets better results than screaming or fighting over a toy.
Despite the preparation, it is a good idea to stack away that one favourite toy that the child is extremely attached to and does not like to share. You certainly do not want the playdate to turn into a slinging match.
The weather and circumstances permitting, the outdoors are a great place to set up that playdate. Visiting parks and playgrounds together can be a whole lot of fun. In case the playdate is being set up indoors do ensure that the kids steer clear of screen time. What this means though is that you will need to plan some activities in advance so that the “we’re bored and have nothing else to do” stage doesn’t arise. Having said that, resist the temptation to over plan as some amount of unstructured time is good for the children to use their own creativity and find solutions to their boredom.
It is a good idea to set boundaries for children at the outset. Things like how playing in the drive way is out of bounds, will help set expectations. Also set rules about the kids having to clean up after finishing one activity and before moving on to the next. Expecting clean up at the end of the playdate doesn’t always work well as there is already some anxiety around the fact that the play date is ending and you have very little leverage to get things done.
The one thing that parents fear the most when it comes to playdates is conflicts. It is inevitable that despite your meticulous planning, some might still spring up. It is best as far as possible to allow the children to resolve small issues on their own instead of jumping in to solve them at the slightest provocation. Of course, if the disagreement begins to snowball you will need to intervene. If the disagreement increases it will be a good idea to separate the children for a bit and then get them to try a new activity.
Sometimes, of course, the playdate may go so well that the children loath being separated. It is always a good idea to give them a warning, say 10 minutes in advance that it is nearing pack-up time. It is also good to discuss what they would love to do together next time. In case the kids created something together — drawings, craft articles — it will work well to hand them over to the kids. That way the attention will be diverted to stuff that they are carrying back. Another tip that always seems to work is to get the kids outside the house when the playdate is about to end. That way you do not have to struggle with literally dragging an unwilling kid out of home.
So go right ahead and plan that playdate calendar. The joy of seeing your child making new friends and having a good time, is priceless!
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare.)