Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Four Secrets for planning Successful Playdates

"Let's get together!"  As a new mom in the area, I am always excited when another mom says those words, and even more excited when it happens.  Play dates are great opportunities for my children to learn social skills.  More importantly, play dates have allowed my children and I to form permanent friendships all over the country and the world.   Here are some play date secrets I have learned from moms around the country and around the world.

Communicate Clearly

We all approach the world with our own bias.  That is why it is critical to communicate clearly with the other mom(s) involved before and during the play date.  Be clear about when and where the play date is taking place, whether or not food will be involved, and what kind of play is expected.  Once the children are together, do not hesitate to ask the other mom if she is comfortable with the type of play that is going on.  If you are the parent who has a concern, speak up.  Be kind, and tell the other parent specifically what you would like to see change.

Make it about the kids

As an extrovert, I can get desperate for adult conversation.  However, if the play date is going to be a success, the other mom and I need to be thinking about the kids, and that may mean that we cannot enjoy as much as conversation as we would like. We may have to make it up on the phone or via text later.

Making the play date about the kids can also means keeping them in sight.   All kids will do things when they think the adults are not looking that they would never try in front of you. You can not help your child develop social skills if you do not know what happened.  

The great thing about making it about the kids is that you can ditch some of the adult conventions.  When we were living in a small town in the southwest play dates we lived pretty far away from our friends, and play dates that did not include a meal were almost impossible.  My friend graciously pulled out the night before's left overs, and it worked perfectly.

Know your limits

Whenever we host a play date, the bedrooms are off limits.  Before our guests come, I instruct my children to move all toys that they wish to share to the living area, and all toys they do not wish to share to their bedrooms.  Keeping guests out of the bedrooms helps keep the kids in sight.  If one of my children needs down time before our guests leave, they have a safe place to go.  Sorting the toys ahead of time helps my children focus on sharing, and be secure that their most special things are safe.

Playing with other children can be surprisingly exhausting.  If your kids are showing signs of being done before the end of the play date, do not be afraid to say, "I think we need to get home for some early naps."  Sometimes this means leaving toys on the floor.  While it is generally good manners to help clean up your mess, it is sometimes in every one's best interest to just get the extra kids out of the situation.  

Go the Extra mile 

Sometimes you can not follow all the best advice.  I just said that it is important to leave when the kids are done.  However, I was in a situation a few years ago where the taxi would not show up, and I was stuck at a friend's house after her kids and mine were well over each other.  My friend graciously made us comfortable, and made it clear that we were welcome time and time again.  

 One of my friends has some children who literally need to snack all the time.  I would be overwhelmed if I had to "be a good hostess" and keep up with their demands for food and drink for the hours they spend at my house. Her children show up with lunchboxes, and we always have a great time together.  These friends willingness to go the extra mile made our play dates a success, because they made the play date happen.  Play dates that happen and that you all want to repeat are always a success.

Have you found some secrets that make play dates successful?  I would love to read them!

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