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!
The entire point of Valentine’s Day is to show people that you love them. What better way than to roll up your sleeves and actually put heart and soul into a gift? Kids are dying to be creative and show their love with art.
Instead of buying another box of precut valentines, encourage your children to put their real hearts into the action! Yes, this will involve more work for parents. But the act itself shows your love for your children—sit down with them and get busy creating!Our top 5 Homemade Valentines for all ages are:
Baby Feet Hearts
Who can resist?! Perfect for little ones who aren’t really crafty just yet, it’s a super momento and makes an awesome card for grandparents. Be creative and write a little Valentine poem next to the tiny feet. Bigger children will love to get their big feet into paint too.
Valentine Threaded Felt Bracelets
Super simple steps to make these special Valentines, your daughter will be the talk of the classroom when she hands these bracelets out. They will be so unique, it doesn’t even matter that it’s not a “card.” Complete with a little note if your child wants to leave her name.
Mock “Watercolour” Valentine
The result from this Coffee Filter Valentine is spectacular. The messier the colouring, the better the heart turns out with its watercolour effect for the Valentine Heart. This is a fabulous toddler project yet your older children will also create stunning Valentines as well. The element of surprise as the colours meld on each heart is contagious! You can glue these onto cards or address the card with names once it’s dry.
Real Watercolour Valentines
This is a fun technique and with 20 classmates, it’s time efficient! Watercolour painting naturally spreads and dries quickly and runs into beautiful colours. With heart shaped stickers attached prior to painting, there’s a resist technique which evolves when sticker are removed. Once dry have your children cut and glue squares of their watercolour onto small cardstock folded cards.
Valentines for the Birds
This idea isn’t exactly a “card” either but it’s a unique, useable gift that kids will love to hand out—it’s a heart-shaped bird feeder! Instructions to make the bird feeder are here but it's a fairly simple project with birdseed, suet and a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Attach with a string and deliver to your children’s best friends or hang around the yard to give the birdies a Valentine treat!
Remember, when you're covered in glue, Valentine's sparkles, birdseed and glitter hearts—ignore the mess! It doesn't take much extra time to make homemade tokens for friends, but it will make your children feel so extra special. And that's a Valentine gift.