Tell your child they are going to play with their friends and their eyes will brighten up immediately. Preschool marks the formal entry into having a vibrant social life with playdates at home, at the park or even at school. Here is our guide to set up playdates that your children will love and help you manage minor tiffs over toys, reduce angry outbursts and ensuring a whole lot of fun!
Setting up the playdate
- Invite friends. The first step to a successful playdate to involve your child in making a list of friends they want to have over. Invite the wrong friend and the entire playdate could end up with tears.
- Give advance notice. In our busy lives today, it is difficult to commit to events at the snap of a finger. When deciding when to have the playdate, give at least a week’s advance notice to parents. They will also be thankful to you for taking their busy schedules into consideration.
- Keep the group size small. No more than three. In fact, three can be too much. In these young years, your child is learning how to share, communicate, work together and get along with other children. These social skills are just being learned. Start with one child and then increase the number of children as your child matures.
- Limit play time. Start with an hour or so during the first playdate. This gives children the time to play without getting tired and cranky. As your child grows, increase it by thirty minutes. The last thing you want is to have tired, bored and cranky children.
- Provide snacks. Make sure to plan for having time off of playtime for eating some delicious snacks. Make sure to ask your child’s friends’ parents for any food allergies they may have. Make sure you as your child to help you with the snack menu as well. A balanced combination of some eats that all kids love to eat like mini pizzas along with fruits and juices are a great combination. Make sure you make the food look cute and funny too! For example, if you are making mini pizzas at home, make sure to make the tomatoes look like eyes.
- Make it a social setting for parents too. Yes, it is important to keep focus on ensuring children have a wonderful time during the playdate. But it is also a great time to meet with new parents and make new friends themselves. Invite parents’ home for a cup of tea while their children with yours.
Make a list of activities ahead of time with your children on all the possible things your child would like to do with their friends.
- Playing with toys. Have your child arrange toys their toys and keep them organized. If your children decide to play with them, then she will not spend time looking for them.
- Minimize screen time. Playdates are a great way to build social connections with their children. If your child does want to watch their favorite cartoon or play their favorite game, minimize the time. Have your child pick out other activities they will do.
- Sharing favorite toys. Sharing is a critical skill your child is learning at this age. Prepare your child ahead of time and ask them what they would do if their friends asks to play with their favorite toys. Teach them how to share. If you sense they are not comfortable sharing, then remove their favorite toys from the playdate mix all together. Having said that, because your child is still learning, even in the mix of toys are they are ok with sharing, they may claim it as theirs along the way when their friend shows interest in it. At this time, intervene and tell your child that the toy is sad and wants to play with both your child and their friend. This is a great to create a calmer experience.
- Plan for break time. Apart from providing healthy snacks and drinks, it is better to have some calming activities ready in case children become too tired. Some activities like baking cookies or a walk outside are great ways to calm the mind. Try our caramel popcorn and strawberry smoothie recipes.
- Get them started. The first few minutes of a playdate may be a little awkward. Help your children get started by sticking around and encouraging them to play. Bring them their favorite toys and join in! After some time, they will become comfortable with each other and that is your cue to exit.
- Encourage clean ups. While you are getting them started, also let them know that they will be in charge of cleaning up. Show them how to clean up and let them know what they can move onto the next activity only after the clean up is done. You can even make it fun by giving them a reward after clean up.
- Set up open ended activities. Free form play is critical. Set up a table with play dough, paints and papers for your children to have fun with. Unstructured play engages your child’s mind and think freely. Creativity and imagination also flow in.
- Be available. Young children want independence but at the same time appreciate your presence in the background. It may just be that they require that feeling of safety, but being around is critical.
- Teach your children how to resolve problems on their own. It is good to keep an eye on them to make sure things are not getting out of hand, but allowing your child to
- Positive reinforcement is important. Keep acknowledging good behavior from your child. If your child does something you don’t like, remind them of the time when they behaved correctly. Focusing n the positive will ensure your child always that on her fore front.
Ending the playdate
- Give your child enough warning. When the playdate is going to end give your child a heads up at around 30 minutes. Then again at 5 minutes. This will give them enough time to wind down.
- Send a cute little memory with them. If the children have baked cookies or have paint something, give them something to take back home as happy memories. If children are happy to share memories with their loved ones, then they will feel happy to come for another playdate.