It’s the first week of school for many students and parents! As students adapt to the changes of a new teacher and peers, it’s important to support the friendships being fostered in the classroom right from the start. Friendship is not only an essential part of developing a child’s social skills, but it also makes the transition back to school much easier. Interacting and planning play dates with other parents is a great way to support the friendships being made and ensure they will not dwindle away as the school year progresses. Here are six things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your child’s next play date!
- Be Prepared —It’s important that your child is ready for the play date regardless of whether they are going or hosting. Make sure he or she is well rested and fed before the allotted time. Not only do you want your child prepared, but you’ll also want to prep the space that you intend to use for play. Choose a space that will allow children to be active as they interact and childproof it for any potential risks. If the play date is happening at your house, your schedule should be cleared for the devoted hour of social time, as children will need consistent supervision.
- Know What to Expect—You’ll want to establish who’s picking up who, arrival and departure times, if parents are staying throughout the play date, and how many children will be involved before getting children together. It’s also a good practice to ask about any allergies or medical needs of the children in your care. Once you have all of the details, be sure to talk it over with your child, so they also know when to expect friend-time and how to prepare. (We all know they have that one special toy or outfit they’ll have to find and show off!)
- Teach Children How to Play the Perfect Host(ess)—Social skills are one of the many benefits children will gain from interacting with peers and building lasting relationships. One of those skills is courtesy. Explain what it means to be a ‘’good host(ess)” with examples like taking their guest’s jacket and hanging it up, showing their guest the space they’ll be exploring, or even offering a pre-prepared snack or drink! Seeing the guest as someone to be valued will help children better appreciate the ideas of their peers both in and outside of the classroom.
- Avoid Threes—There is truth to the concept of “third wheels” and having someone feel “left out” is never ideal. If you can, plan in pairs or keep younger siblings distracted with separate activities so children can interact with their guest.
- Know When to Step In—Squabbles are going to happen; it’s natural as kids are unlikely to agree on everything that arises within an hour. There are a couple of ways you can handle play date skirmishes. If there is hitting (or biting) involved, it’s time to step in and change the activity, giving attention to a new subject. If the problem is one that does not involve children being emotionally or physically hurt, it can be just as beneficial to step back and let children work out their own problems. Using communication and understanding differences is a key learning process, and if children can come to joint solutions, problem-solving skills are already underway.
- Reflect When Finished—It’s important to know what worked and what didn’t when the play date has come to an end. This will help you with the planning process for the next date and how your child best operates with their peers. Plan your own meeting with the parents of the visiting children so you can both be better prepared for round two!
For the perfect play date toys, you won’t want to miss out on these selections:
- Frida’s Fruit Fiesta
- Design & Drill
- Artec Blocks- Perfect Mathematics Set
- Candy Construction Building Kit
- Neighborhood Friends (Set of 8)
- Kaloo Caramel Puppy Puppet
Play Date Resources: