The independent playdate. It’s a milestone worth noting. After years of mom tagging along to group playdates or playgroups that were really a coffee date for mommy, it’s time for your child to go on her first solo play. And in turn, you need to reciprocate (the unwritten law in playdate land!).
What age do solo-play dates begin? Often around 4 years old (sometimes earlier or later depending on the child, or mommy!). If they haven’t started by kindergarten the solo birthday parties are going to be wringing hand events for mama—so best to get started practising!
To some moms playdates come as second nature. Others, not so much. Here are some tips as you jump into this new playdate pool.
Start with a friend your child already knows very well.
Chose a friend you see regularly like a neighbour. That tends to avoid any personality issues and keeps the first few playdates fun and relaxed.
Short & sweet
An hour is a good amount of time to start out with a new friend or for a younger child. As they age, 2-2.5 hours is a good chunk of time to play well but avoid the dreaded overexposure!
Use the playdate as a way to support new friendships.
My child has a friend she met in dance class and she’s become a great playdate pal. It’s given my child another stream of friendship outside of school which I really like.
Pick a happy, well rested time of day.
We need cooperative kids who are in good spirits with good sharing skills!, If they still nap, don’t plan an afternoon gathering, just sayin’.
Pair up with a mom with older kids (who is has less qualms dropping off her kids...)
Find a friend with older sibs to show you the ropes. A mom who’s been around the playdate block will be more than happy to drop her child off (been there, done that) and your child can practise more one-on-one play under your supervision. She’ll likely be a much more relaxed playdate partner too, be ready for that when your child visits her house.
How much to supervise?
The whole point of a playdate is to get children used to socialising on their own but kids who are 3 and 4 still need guidance in their play and help to develop their social skills. Even older kids need a host nearby. My daughter (almost 6) can’t wait to escape to her room with a friend and while I support that independence, I stay within earshot so they don’t get into trouble (a friend can be twice the fun but twice the trouble!).
Develop a little theme
Kids love to look forward to a special days so why not give their playdate a “theme.” It sets a basic structure about what they’re going to do together and gives the playdate a bit more fun that “just playing”.
• Playdough and Popcorn date (get your broom ready though!)
• Train Date—bring your trains for a “Thomas Day”
• Indoor Beach Party—wear a bathing suit under your clothes
• Dance Party—turn up the tunes!
• Tea party—play dress up & have tea
Prep for sibling frustration
Always disappointing not to be included in something and siblings (especially younger!) will not understand the exclusion. Our house rule is if you play in your room with your friend, you can have alone time. But if you play anywhere else, you need to include other siblings as we are a family. I explain this to our little guests too as “the way we play here.”
Get cell phone numbers and confirm allergies. As a mom of a child with a peanut allergy I’m so grateful to other parents for taking precautions at snack time and I always leave an epi-pen (with instructions).
When in doubt: Arts & Crafts!
Kids getting restless? Pull out the craft supplies or even basic crayons and colouring books and listen to the hilarious chitter chatter between kids as they create! Send your guest home with her artwork as proof of a fun time together.
Kids have big ears and hear you say “let’s do this again” to the other parent. If they don’t reciprocate (some parents won’t as hosting is not their thing and they don’t get the “rule”) don’t punish your child or her friend by waiting, instead invite the friend over again and have fun at your house.
Enjoy! Have a great playdate!