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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

7 Tips for Peachy Playdates

Photo by guilherme jofili (Flickr)

The other day, my girls asked if they could invite a few friends over for a playdate. I thought it sounded like a good idea, but the day didn't go as expected. One of my daughters had a meltdown because she didn't want to share a favorite toy, and one of our guests spent the whole hour watching videos on her cellphone. Can you relate? If so, learn from my experience and implement a few playdate guidelines that will help future dates be peachy and fun for your kids and their friends.

Keep it Simple

Elaborate invitations and gourmet snacks are fun additions to a birthday party or baby shower, but they're not necessary for playdates. Keep the details simple so you can focus on helping your kids enjoy the fun. Simplifying saves you time and money, too.

Go Easy on the Invites

One time, I got excited and invited almost 10 kids to our house for a playdate. My girls were overwhelmed, some kids were left out of the game time, and I ran out of snacks. From that experience, I learned to only invite one or two kids at a time. While this strategy doesn't completely resolve conflicts or ensure I have enough food, it does increase the opportunities for everyone to have fun and reduces stress on the kids and me.

Be Aware of Special Needs

When my girls invite new friends over, I always check in with the parents first. I want to know if the kids have food allergies, environmental sensitivities, or activity preferences. With this knowledge, I can prep my girls and our home or playdate location to ensure that everyone's safe and comfortable.

Let the Kids Plan the Agenda

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I micromanage playdates. Do you ever do that? If so, we need to remember that playdates teach our kids to make decisions, compromise, and interact naturally. Instead of us setting up the schedule, we can set out a few different toys or games ahead of time or let our kids and their friends choose a few games after the playdate starts.

Hide Favorite Toys

Most kids have one or two favorite toys they hate to share, and that's OK. Go ahead and hide those toys in a box on a high shelf. Pull out toys your kids don't mind sharing or ones that several kids can play with together as you respect your child's favorite toys and promote cooperative play.

Turn Off the Devices

I let my kids occasionally watch TV and play on their tablets, but I don't let them use electronic devices during playdates. They should use that time to engage with their friends and improve communication and socialization skills, not be glued to a screen. To make the "no devices" rule work, tell your kids' friends and their parents in advance so they know what to expect.

Don't Force Your Kids to Play

Playdates offer kids opportunities to socialize outside of school, and they should be fun, not forced. I know my girls are sometimes exhausted and want to rest instead of run around the playground, and sometimes kids have an off day and just don't get along. In those situations, I give my girls permission to hang out on the sidelines or head home early to relax.

My girls and I are big fans of playdates. I've learned, though, that these seven tips make play time go smoother and be more fun for everyone. What other tips make playdates peachy?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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