“Play date” or “playdate” is a US expression that has become popular in Ireland in recent years. Simply put, a play date is an arranged appointment between parents for their children to get together for a few hours at home. Play dates support children to form friendships, to practice their social and relationship building skills, and increase their confidence. Friendships are an important part of life, and start in the preschool years. As part of our weekly series of parenting tips, here are our tips to help create positive play date experiences for your children and you, their friends and their friends’ parents.
- Play dates start with parent and child dates. Parents need to make time to meet other parents. Extend an invitation. It could start with arranging to be at the playground in the park at the same time.
- Some parents are not in a position to invite your child over to play at their house. Don’t expect the invite. Play dates are for your child’s development and they don’t need to get invited to other homes all the time. They will be happy for it to happen in their own home.
- Parents need to actively engage in play dates. Children need support to play well with other children. Always remain in the room with young children and as your child gets older, continue to fully supervise and always remain within earshot with doors open.
- Talk with your child prior to a play date. Agree what games will be played, what toys they are willing to share and in what parts of the house they will play in.
- Help children engage well in the games, both your child and the visitor. Support them to solve problems rather than you making the decisions. You are responsible for the visiting child’s well-being so you must protect their feelings also.
- Make sure you have the contact numbers of the visiting child’s parent/s or guardian. Be aware if they have any special needs or dietary requirements.
- Play dates are about play so avoid sugary treats.
- Praise your child after the play date. Tell them how well they did; be specific about what went well. Later talk with them about what did not go well and plan what to do differently next time.
- Be aware of how you deal with behavioural issues with your child and others. Be assertive in how you communicate with children and ensure they experience positive interactions in your home.
- Talk with the other parent if things are really not going well. Both parents will need to work together to support young children to play well. Don’t make judgements on children; they are young and have so much to learn. Our job as parents is to help and support them, not judge or condemn them.
Next, you might like to read ‘10 Ways to be More Socially Engaged‘.
This week’s ’10 Ways to’ is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
Coming soon: 10 Ways to Develop Coping Skills in Your Family and 10 Ways to Make the Most of the Playground.