When my son was small I used to invite friends over with kids the similar age so that they can have play dates. With toddlers we schedule play dates to help them with their social development. It helps them learn to share and play together. Likewise, play dates are important for slightly older children too. Play dates help slightly older children to further develop their social skills and become more independent by managing on their own when their mums are not there looking out for them constantly. One other very important yet unappreciated aspect of scheduling play dates for this age group is that kids nowadays simply need time to play and have some fun with a friend. With them always busy with their academic and non academic pursuits play dates will just help them relax a bit. In addition to the various benefits to our children, play dates are also a wonderful opportunity for mums to manage their increasingly busy schedules.
As our children get older, there comes a time when we can no longer tag along with them on their play dates. They go in to school and quite often make friends with children whom you may not be familiar with and of course there comes this all important time when it is no longer cool when Mum hangs out at their play dates.
When my son first went on a play date by himself I found myself wondering what are the norms, what must be done and the basic etiquette involved when your little one going to someone’s home.
I know it can be anxious – particularly to the ‘helicopter mums’ and those of us who have one child. There’s a lot to consider – you wonder how your child will behave, will he need you, will he need to use the washroom (and need your help!). Yes I know, watching them grow is an interesting time.
As I said before, play dates are very important for the development of a child. You will find that your child becomes more confident and it is also an opportunity for us as parents to help each other out. So here are some things that you may want to take note of before you send off your little one on a play date by himself:
- Your little one should be at least 7 years for a play date in which he will be without you. There is no strict age as to when a child can have his first play date sans you, so discuss with your little one before scheduling one. Your child needs to be ready and if he mentions any doubts, sit it out. Some children take longer and it’s a good idea to schedule it in when he is completely comfortable.
- Before scheduling the play date, please discuss the following:
- Let the mum who is hosting the play date know if your little one is able to use the toilet by himself.
- Clearly mention any allergies that he may have and include food that you may not be giving him. Remember, he may be given treats outside of his normal diet, but that’s okay, after all a play date is meant to be fun!
- Attend to your child’s toilet routine before you leave your home. If you feel like you need to, you can ask your host if you can take him to the washroom when you are dropping him off too.
- If you are sending your little one on his first play date ever, keep it short. One and half hours is more than enough. It’ll fly fast and trust me when you go to pick him up, he’s going to want to stay over for more, but first time dates should be kept short. A first time short period lets you make sure that he’s happy and comfortable at his friend’s place.
- It’s alright to send a game or a toy that your child enjoys playing with so that he can share and play at his play date.
- Have a chat with your little one before the drop off and remind him to say his Thank Yous and Pleases. Also make sure you remind him to wash his hands before eating and after using the bathroom.
- When dropping off your child at the play date, it’s often nice to drop something small like some brownies or something else as a thank you to your host. I would stick with food and not give a ‘gift’ such as board game, toy or something else for the mum. Remember, it’s not like a birthday party gift, it’s more of something to show a bit of appreciation to your host.
- You can also offer to send over some snacks. Most often mums these days may not have much help around the house and this gesture might be appreciated.
- It’s always nice to be on time! So try to show up on time and please make sure that you pick up your child up on time. I often think that it’s polite to think of the mum who is hosting the play date – she may have another appointment afterwards and you wouldn’t want to inconvenience her! Of course, there may be times when you might be unavoidably delayed, in which case, make sure that you let the mum know that you are getting late as early as possible.
- Remember one of the most important things about play dates is reciprocating the play date so that you able to return the favour.
Once you have scheduled a play date at your place:
- Remember to ask for food that your little guest would like to eat. Whilst I know we mums always try to give our kids super healthy food all the time, make sure that you offer something child friendly. If you’re hosting a play date, offer a snack that isn’t any kind of fast food. Something baked or prepared at home from scratch such as brownies, cookies or a sandwich is a good idea. If your little guest is there during a meal time, cook something child friendly at home. I’ve often found that something like homemade chicken nuggets or macaroni & cheese works a treat. Also try not to offer any fizzy drinks.
- Before you schedule in your play date, make sure you have the contact details of the parents clearly noted down or stored on your phone book.
- Plan out the play date. Often kids get bored fast and having a choice of alternative activities is a good idea. Games, toys or board games are all good options. Most parents don’t like scheduling play dates only to have the kids in front of a television, so best to leave the TV alone. The only exception to this would be if the play date is a all-day spend over in which case a short movie as a quiet time activity is alright.
- As the time approaches for the play date to end, make sure that you start preparing for your guest to leave. Let your little ones know that the play date has come to an end about 15 minutes before pickup time. You can also have your little guest ready by getting their shoes on or other last minute preparations.
Play dates can be very rewarding as you see your little one forming strong friendships and simply having fun. As time goes on your kids will get more used to these play dates and the anxiety of planning them and getting ready for them lessens and making sure you are a good host or a good guest makes these play dates more enjoyable.
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