How to have successful play dates

6 March 2017

Dear friend,

How do you feel about organising play dates? Some mums love it and relish the chance to demonstrate their brilliant planning skills but others are filled with dread and panic. Having a child with additional needs I have found playdates quite daunting at times, as I worried about how he may behave in different situations and how other people/children may react.

When the boys were younger we used to attend an international play group and I would regularly invite a few of the mums over for coffee on Fridays so we could chat and the kids play. I always found that the big lad responded better to play dates in his own home and with his own things.

The Dutch have quite a laid back attitude towards play dates. The boys regularly come rushing out of school with a friend in tow asking if they can play and we very rarely say no.

The other day a friend and I were chatting as her son has just started having play dates. She was asking for advice as a recent session hadn't quite gone to plan. The blogger in me thought ha ha, that would make a great post and so here we are. My Top Tips for Successful Playdates...

Prepare your child.
Discuss what will happen on the day.

Pick a good time & place.
Work around your child’s sleeping and eating schedule (if they are preschoolers). Limit play dates to no more than 2 hours in the beginning. For many kids with learning and attention issues, home may be the most comfortable place to hang out. But if your child tends to retreat at home when new people are there, consider meeting at an indoor or outdoor playground that is familiar to them.

Pick the right playmate.
Who might your child have fun getting to know? Some children have problems playing with children their own age. Ask your child’s teacher to suggest potential playdates. Ask your child who they’d like to play with.

Invite a parent.
As kids get older, they can start attending playdates alone. But for preschoolers, it makes sense to have Mom, Dad or another caregiver tag along. With one friend mum stays for a coffee before leaving so they are settled.

Prepare activities.
Set up your play area with toys or games they may enjoy. Limit their choices to make it easier.

Make it easy to share. 
If your child has a special toy or two that they prefer to keep to themselves put these away to avoid problems.

Serve a snack. 
When things start to get too rowdy or you feel like the kids just need a break from playing, offering a healthy snack, can provide everyone the breather they need.

Stay nearby, but don't hover.
Children need some freedom, to socialize on their own. Stay within earshot so you can assist if necessary.

Problem solving 
Don't be too quick to jump in if disagreements happen. Allowing children to resolve small issues on their own can help them to develop their problem solving skills.

Saying a proper goodbye
We always see our friends to the door and say thank you for coming to play.

Talk with your child about the play date. What did they enjoy? Did they have any problems? Would they like to arrange another date?

If you have any more tips let me know in the comments and happy playing!

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