Play Dates

A play date is a chance for your child to socially engage with another child in your own home, at the park, at a friends house or another venue. You would think this is easy, after all they are children, how could the dynamics possibly be challenging?

Well, it isn’t always as easy as it should be. The children don’t always want to play with one another, they don’t want to take turns, they tell on each other and may even end up fighting!

Here are some tips for a successful play date:

  • Choose your play date wisely. Choose children that you want your child to play with, those with nice manners and who’s going to be a good influence. Your child will have an idea of who they want to play with also.

  • Keep the play date relatively short, perhaps to an hour or two. This is to avoid the children getting tired or even bored with each other. This is where all the fights will start. If a fight breaks out before you leave, find out what happened. For example, over a toy or game. Find out who had the toy first and allow them to have it for another 5 minutes and then it’s the other child’s turn. These fights can be defused quickly but if they keep happening and you’re turning into a referee then give the children a warning and say, “if you guys can’t find a way to play nicely and share toys, then the play date will be over and ‘Jack’ will go home.” If it still doesn’t get any better it’s best to cut it short and take your child home.

  • There really doesn’t need to be any planning unless you would like to do a specific activity, like cooking or an art project. Let the kids be kids and play!

  • Ask the children what they would like to play with. Encourage your child to be polite and let their guest choose first what they would like to play with and your child can choose next. Tell your child that it’s a really nice and polite thing to do. They can play with their toys anytime but their friend is only there for a brief play date. It’s a wonderful quality to teach your child, it will carry over into other areas and will follow them for the rest of their lives.

  • Don’t try to micro-manage the play date. Once you have set the children up with something to play with it’s best to leave them and let them get on with it. Obviously, always keeping an eye and an ear! They may parallel play (play side by side) and that’s fine and actually normal, especially for younger children. Eventually, perhaps not this time, they will start to play together.

  • Children tattle and tell tales, please ignore this as much as possible. Encourage the children that this is not a nice thing to do to their friend. Tell them that unless someone is getting hurt you don’t want to hear it. The more you listen to the tattling and intervene to see who said and did what, the more you encourage this behavior from a child and this is not something you want to instill in any child.

Often as parents or caregivers we put so much pressure on the children and ourselves to have the perfect play date. What’s the worst that can happen? The children don’t play nicely and you have to end the play date early. It’s really not a big deal and the children will either play or they wont and there’s really nothing you can do about it. So, take the pressure off!  There really should be no pressure whatsoever, this is a fun time for children to interact and engage with other children and a time for moms and dads to have a cup of coffee and enjoy adult interaction.