Playdates, where two or more children come together to, well, play, can be a parent’s dream come true – or worst nightmare.
For some of us, the word “playdate” conjures up images of screaming, tussling kids, red faces and a lots of embarrassed “I’m so sorry he did that…” to the other parents along for the ride. But don’t write off playdates from your lives just yet.
Playdates can be a great platform for your little ones to gain precious socialization skills, not to mention have a ball of a time. And, when planned properly, playdates can even free you up to enjoy some heart-to-heart chats with your own friends on the side.
Planning your first playdate? Check these tips out!
Planning For A Playdate: Things To Consider
1. Prepare to play
Plan in advance for your child’s playdate. Don’t commit on a whim or just because your friend asks you to come over to join “a few friends”. A tired child is not going to have a whole lot of fun at any playdate, no matter how enticing the activity may be. Do ensure that your child is well rested, not hungry, and not coming down with anything before setting up or joining a playdate.
The actual timing of the date matters too – for example, if the children are still at the age where they take afternoon naps, then a lunch play date is ideal. This allows them time to mingle before lunch, and play a while ore after lunch, before heading home for naptime.
Depending on your child’s temperament, some lead time may be helpful. For children who are especially resistant to or wary to changes in schedule or environment, prepare them for the playdate a couple of days beforehand, letting them know what to expect and who they will see, as well as where you will be during that time.
2. Know the ‘players’
If you are the organizer of the playdate, then determining who makes the guest list is a matter of talking things through with your child and keeping in mind the aim of your date. However, if you are attending a playdate organized by someone else, do find out who will be at the playdate, and if there’s a special reason for this particular playdate (eg somebody has a new toy to share, or to celebrate an event like Easter).
Knowing who to expect may be helpful to both you and your child, and enable you to foresee some possible issues that may arise, for example if your child knows only one of the four kids coming. Remember that it’s also easier to maintain order with a smaller group of kids, especially if the children are very young. 2-3 children is a good-sized group for toddlers and preschoolers.
3. Consider the location
While a full recce of the venue is probably not necessary, you should at least be aware of where the “play” is to be held – eg by the pool, at the beach, in someone’s home etc – and who will be overseeing the kids. Safety is definitely an issue when young children are running amok. If you are the one organizing the playdate, be sure to assign adequate manpower to watch over the kids – don’t try to do it all alone.
If the playdate is at someone’s home, recognize that children can be kind of possessive of their own territory, including their room, toys, tv, cutlery etc. If you foresee this to be a big issue with your child, consider hosting the playdate on a more “neutral ground” such as a playground or the park.
See also: Top indoor playgrounds in Singapore
4. Make it fun!
The main objective of a playdate should be to have fun! Don’t get hung up on making it as educational or value added as possible and miss out on the enjoyment factor completely. Think less talk, less rules, more play, more movement.
Depending on how well the children know each other, and their personality styles, they may take a while to warm up to each other, and that’s fine. To help them all have a good time, do plan activities suitable for group participation and ensure you have enough toys/materials to go around, so no one is left out.
Children playing at Bollywood veggies.
5. Have a back-up plan
The best of plans can go wrong, especially when you have little people in the equation. Squabbles and fights are one thing, but then there are also accidents and falls, or an allergic reaction, or the fact that Miss A who normally loves art got distracted by her friend’s amazing doll house.
It’s impossible to prepare for every possible eventuality, but at least be prepared to roll with the punches, especially if you’re the host, and even to take out a child who is just not coorperating that day. Be sure to have the contact numbers of all parents on hand if they aren’t sticking around for the time.
6. Set clear and consistent ground rules
As the host, be sure to set some clear boundaries for the kids, eg no hurting of persons, toys or furniture, no leaving the venue without permission etc. Let the other parents know your rules beforehand to get everyone on the same page.
7. Keeping them fed
If a full meal or light snacks are on the agenda, do check with the parents beforehand to find out what foods their little ones may be (1) allergic or (2) averse to. Keep in mind too that no parent wants their child to be stuffed with sugar – they’re the ones who’ll have to deal with the sugar rush later on!
Think simple and hearty fare, like a chicken bolognese pasta for a main and/or fruits and cheese toast for a snack. Keep the sweet drinks away – plain water will do just fine. Also helps you avoid some unwanted sticky situations.
8. Evaluate the date
After each playdate, take time to think over the event and consider what worked and what didn’t. Were the activities engaging enough? Were the kids able to warm up to play quickly? Was the group too big, too small or just right? Was the timing and duration of the playdate a good fit for these particular kids? Then factor in your discoveries into planning your next playdate!
We hope that these basic guidelines will come in handy in helping you plan your next playdate. That said, remember that it’s not your load to bear alone. If you’re part of a group of mums, it’s only fair that everyone takes turns to organize these playdates for the kids. This exposes the children to a wider variety of activities and environments, and is a great platform for parents to learn from each other along the way.
By Dorothea Chow