Play dates are a great way for your children to practice their social skills and gain confidence in their relational abilities. An added bonus is that regular play dates can also give you a break! If you're wondering exactly how to get started scheduling play dates with your children's friends, just follow these easy steps:
Think about who you might like to swap play dates with. Perhaps there is another parent from your child's class who has children the same age as your own, or maybe there is a neighbor whose children your kids enjoy spending time with.
Do Something Fun Together
Invite this parent and his/her children to meet you at a local McDonald's Playland or another informal setting. This will allow you to get to know the other parent and see how the kids interact. If all goes well, you'll be ready to begin planning play dates.
Extend an Invitation
Be up front with the other parent. You could say something like, "Bradley really enjoys playing with Coin, and I was thinking of setting up some play dates. Do you think Colin would like to come over sometime?" Then schedule a play date at your house for the following week.
Keep the initial play date to about two hours. This is enough time for the kids to have fun, but not so long that you'll feel overwhelmed.
It's very important that you stay close by while the kids are playing. If you're not in the same room, make sure you'll always within earshot. Generally speaking, you don't want to be more than one room away. Also, make sure you ask the other parent about any food allergies or health concerns before they drop off their child.
You'll want to establish some ground rules such as "Doors always stay open," and "We only eat in the kitchen." If the idea is to repeat these play dates regularly, you'll want there to be some structure and continuity.
Try to think of some simple activities for the kids, like playing Legos or board games. Try to stay away from TV or video games during the play date. These are activities your child can engage in alone, and you want to get the most out of this play date time. If they get really bored, give them some markers and empty boxes. Making a fort is always great fun! In addition, you can also offer a simple snack for the kids to share, which can serve as a great distraction from the idea that "we're bored."
Activities for the Host
During play dates, you may find that the kids frequently move around from room to room. This gives you a great opportunity to straighten up, dust, vacuum, or even sort through a pile of old mail! You'll be surprised by how much you can get done while your kids are playing peacefully in the next room.
Communicate With the Other Parent
When the other parent comes at the arranged pick-up time, be sure to provide some valuable feedback about how the play date went. Did the kids get along okay? What did they do? Is there something positive you can share about how the kids spent their time together?
Think Ahead to Next Time
If you feel the play date went well and you'd like to do it again, let the parent know. You could say, "This went so well, I was wondering if you'd like to do it again. Maybe we can even swap play dates on a regular basis."