Per­fect play dates

Pit­falls and plea­sures

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

WHERE DO THEY PLAY?

Play dates usu­ally take place at your house, but you can also ar­range to meet at a park, in a cof­fee shop with a play area or even at a restau­rant. Make a point of al­ways ask­ing if there are dogs, a pool or a fish­pond some­where in the gar­den.

If you don’t know the par­ents, it’s a good plan to go along on the first play date, even if you only stay for half an hour. See if you’re com­fort­able with the set-up. Trust your instinct! If you don’t feel com­fort­able leav­ing your child alone, don’t. This will be­come more of an is­sue later: un­der-threes rarely stay at an­other home with­out their par­ents.

Don’t take some­one else’s child some­where with­out first check­ing with the mom. You might think buy­ing an­other child Mcdon­ald’s is a nice treat, while the mom would never al­low it.

Ex­change cell phone num­bers be­fore­hand, and make sure you have yours handy for if there’s a cri­sis.

HOW LONG?

A suc­cess­ful af­ter­noon of play has to have a set be­gin­ning and end. Ar­range a time with the friend’s mom.

For small kids of two or three, a play date should not be longer than two hours. Make sure the host knows when you’ll be fetch­ing your child if you leave her there to play. And don’t be late!

Re­mem­ber, you can also of­fer to take a child home after a play date, and be more in con­trol of how long it lasts in this way.

SEND SOME­THING ALONG

It’s not re­ally nec­es­sary to take a gift, sweets or food along on a play date, but a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the in­vi­ta­tion will def­i­nitely not go un­no­ticed! But you re­ally don’t have to send some­thing each and ev­ery time your child goes to visit a friend. Items such as a pun­net of straw­ber­ries or a packet of marsh­mal­lows can work, es­pe­cially if your child plays at the friend’s house more of­ten than they play at yours.

SAY THANKS

Teach your child to say thank you after a play date and also thank the par­ents your­self – es­pe­cially if you didn’t get to see each other when you dropped and fetched the kids.

IF THINGS GO SOUTH

Not all play dates are equally suc­cess­ful, and some­times chil­dren just don’t gel well. If your child lets on that she re­ally didn’t have a good time, you can phone the mom and find out what the prob­lem was. Don’t force her to play with a friend if she doesn’t want to.

DIF­FI­CULT FRIENDS THE NAUGHTY ONE

Hold a naughty child close for a while and chat calmly about the day at school so that you can dis­tract her from what­ever it was that caused the naughty be­hav­iour.

Also make sure that the friend knows the house rules. Give ex­am­ples: jump­ing on the fur­ni­ture is not al­lowed and nei­ther is throw­ing balls in the house, and your study is out of bounds for play­ing. Naughty friends should be held to the same rules in your house as your own chil­dren.

THE CRY­ING ONE

A spe­cific ac­tiv­ity can of­ten be to blame for the friend’s un­hap­pi­ness. Al­ways tell a weepy child that she can phone her mama as soon as she feels she needs to talk to her or rather wants to go home. A child mustn’t think she’s be­ing kept at her friend’s house against her will.

THE HUN­GRY ONE

Of­fer healthy snacks like fruit skew­ers, and have the chil­dren thread the cubes them­selves. The idea with the skew­ers works well, as it keeps the kids busy, and they en­joy show­ing off their hand­i­work. Home­made pop­corn is an­other win­ner, and muffins are a tasty al­ter­na­tive to dec­o­rated cup­cakes.

THE NOISY ONE

Con­cen­trate on quiet ac­tiv­i­ties to calm down a noisy, bois­ter­ous child. Wa­ter is very calm­ing: a tea set or big tub of wa­ter out­side with buck­ets, boats and wa­ter­ing cans works like a charm. A big ball of clay and rolling pins and cookie cut­ters is also a calm­ing ac­tiv­ity that will make them sit still.

It’s also clever not to limit the chil­dren to one room for the whole play date. Plan dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties in dif­fer­ent rooms. YB

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