Playdate Tips, Tricks and Suggestions
You’ve taught your kids to share and play nicely with others, but when it comes to playdates, did you prepare yourself for the same? As crazy as it may sound, playdates are not as simple as they once were. Once upon a time, playdates consisted of a few kids spending a few hours together playing while mom checked in from time to time and refilled the snack bowl.
This is not the case today. Parents are expected to plan activities to entertain the kids instead of letting them use their imaginations, and you might be shunned if anyone finds out you served chips instead of edamame. Sending your child to someone’s home isn’t exactly worry-free either. Is the parent paying attention to the kids or Facebook? Are they letting them watch age-appropriate television? Did they remember the peanut allergy?
So how do you navigate these new-age playdate puzzles and make sure everyone has fun? Here are some tips for playdate preparations.
Keep Numbers Low
At any age, the least risky move is to host a one-on-one playdate. This way there is no fear of anyone getting left out, and you only have to worry about the rules of one other parenting group.
Plan on hanging around for the playdate if your child is under three. At this age, playdates are social events for both kids and parents. You can get to know the other parent better and find out what her parenting style is like before you try to host or attend a drop-off playdate.
The smaller the child, the shorter the playdate should be. An hour is ideal for toddlers, but most preschoolers can handle two or three. When in doubt, leave them wanting more.
Be the Best Guest
Always drop off and pick up on time, offer to bring snacks, insist on helping with cleanup and make sure your child says, “Thank you for having me.”
Be a Good Host
Ask if your guest has any food allergies or other health issues, make sure to get emergency contact information and check the other parent’s comfort level with TV and computer use. On everything else, if you’re not sure…just ask.
Have some activities ready in case free play gets old. Throw a dance party, have a scavenger hunt or do arts and crafts.
Always ask about food allergies before serving a snack. Try the healthier option first and then you can follow up with a sweet or salty treat. Turn the treats into fun by letting the kids help. They can make a yogurt parfait by layering in yogurt, fruit and granola. Let them spread peanut butter or cream cheese on crackers, then make silly faces with raisin or shredded carrots. The possibilities are limitless.
Make a good faith effort to alternate locations. If you find yourself taking your kid to friends’ homes a lot, you might want to offer to host the next one.
Report as Needed
Nobody likes a tattletale, so let the small stuff go. But most parents want to know if their child hurt someone, intentionally broke something, or had a major meltdown. If that’s the case, give the other parent a brief explanation of what happened, but try to stay positive.
Know Your Place
Disciplining another child is simply not your job. That should be left to the behaviorally challenged kid’s parents. If there is an issue, you can get involved with a statement like, “Hands to yourself. We have a rule against hitting.” If things get out of hand, call the other parent and let him take care of it.
It may seem like a lot, but when it comes down to it playdates should really be about having fun and socialization. As long as both sides keep an open dialog, everything should go off without a hitch and your kids will be begging for the next visit.