Fun and easy playdates for preschoolers (Part 2 - Play time)

Parentree-editors 2008-11-20 11:46:13

You have now prepared for the playdate - scheduled it, have thought about it, talked about it with your child and have even set it up. So folks now get ready for a great time. Hoping you and your child have fun and you do not get too worked up.

Playdate time!

  • Set up the ground-rules and other ideas in a gentle manner upfront.
    • For example, after playing you are going to help us in the clean up, You can play everywhere but not in the drawing room since you can get hurt and so on. Decide your rules and limits. Stick to a few and be firm about these.
    • Let them know to contact you or another responsible adult if they need something or need help in the toilet.
  • Have one planned activity.
    • This depends on the situation. In case they are taking time to warm up, this will get them started. Or if they get over-stimulated in the course of the playdate, this can be good quiet time.
    • For example read a book to them, have them paint, play with playdoh...
    • The rest can be the toys you set up or others.  
    • If they make something (painting etc.), they can take it home as well.
  • Do not push them to play together.
    • They might take time to warm up.
    • Also, kids till age 3 engage in what is called “parallel play” in child development language. It means that children will play alongside each other and might not play together co-operatively. This is natural and to be expected. Set up play activities that encourage interaction like tents etc., but then just sit back.
  • Sharing does not come naturally. You have to work at it.
    • Instead of the concept of sharing, talk about taking turns. For example, first you can play with this toy and then Rohit can have his turn.
    • Do praise and encourage when they share. Reinforce the positive. Do not hesitate also to dangle a carrot - If you share, I will let you paint. Make sure you keep your word.
  • Be available for them. But do not intervene unnecessarily.
    • Once they are set and playing well, just sit back and observe.
    • You could even be on your laptop. Be doing something and still be there for them.
  • Avoid turning on the TV or other video or computer games.
    • TV is not desirable especially for such young kids. Use only as a very last resort if at all.
    • Remember this is a playdate and the idea is for them to play together and interact socially.
  • Have a snack break.
    • In the middle of the playdate, these will make sure that they are stocked and do not get cranky,
    • You can give milk or juice / water as well. They might forget to drink fluids. So do remind them.
    • You can even involve them in getting the snack ready and setting the table. Fun and make them feel important and responsible.
    • Some fun, healthy and easy snack ideas our kids love: Mickey Mouse dosa (small dosa for face and tiny ones for ears and eyes and mouth, just be creative), fruit salad, cucumber and carrot sticks with dip.
    • Keep it simple though especially if you do not have help. It is more important that you are tuned to the children and spending time with them.
  • Conflict or temper tantrums - what to do?
    • First wait to let them sort it out. If it is going out of hand, you will need to intervene.
    • If they both want to play with the same toy, ask them to take turns. Be gentle and firm. 
    • If they start having a temper tantrum, hug them and gently ask them what they might want. 
    • If this does not work, you might need to distract them and make them have some quiet perhaps even separate time doing different activities for a while, before you let them play together.
    •  If the kids are getting physical, then let them know that is not acceptable without being punitive. For example: YES--You cannot push Amjad because he feels bad and he can get hurt; NO--Amrit you are a bad boy for pushing Amjad.
  • Enlist help if possible
    • Little kids need more caring. Have a maid or some other member of the family help you in the kitchen, clearing up and helping out while you can focus on the kids playing and catching up with the mom.
    • Especially if the child prone to having toilet accidents, make sure that his mom or maid can be with you. If not, then arrange for some help so that you do not get over-worked.
  • Have coffee / tea / simple snacks for the mom.
    • Keep it simple and fun.
    • This is not the time to show-off your culinary skills or your house but a time for your kids to play together and for you to get to know the mom better.
  • Prepare for the goodbyes
    • Give at least a 10-minute warning before ending the playdate to prepare them mentally.
    • Encourage them to get excited about something else-- the next playdate or some happening at school etc., the painting they made for taking home, the toffee that you are going to give them to take home etc.

Top 3 takeaways

  • Prepping up earlier can make it easier for later.
  • Involve the kids as much in preparing and problem solving.
  • Be relaxed.

It comes naturally. Just stay tuned to your child and their pals, be prepared and be yourself! Last but not the least, do not over-do playdates. Kids need some downtime and time to play by themselves as well.

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