School is in full swing! While picking up my older son from a school bus and waiting for him to finish a conversation with classmates (which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes), I was reminiscing about my own time in school. Every evening I used to count hours till morning to get back to school and meet my friends there. In search of any possible way to stay together for longer, my friend and I have even started to walk each other home every night.
For my kids, this school year has started with a new school and a kindergarten. And it took less than two weeks before both older and younger one has started to make friends and invite their classmates for a playdate at our home. Now, I have hosted quite a lot since then and made little “informal guideline to playdates” that I try to follow every time:
Length of a playdate
First of all, when parents drop off their kids at a playdate in our home, they obviously need to know when to pick them up. I try to host playdates for a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours. I found that this is much more productive for your fellow parents since this gives them enough time to do something properly, for example, finish work, do groceries, visit a gym or get a manicure!
Ask parents if their child has some allergy or need some special attention. When I drop my older son to a playdate, I always mention about a nut allergy. Other parents may ask to avoid sugar food (especially if it’s an evening playdate). Yes, we all love sweets but it’s never been too healthy.
My kids love eating. Same goes for their friends. Playdate can be a good opportunity to try all the different cuisines from other families. My boys enjoyed samosa when their Indian friend invited them for a playdate. They simply love quesadilla when visiting our family friends who are Mexicans. I remember how happy they were to eat Japanese rolls and red bean bun when my friend from Japan invited us for a playdate. As a Ukrainian mom, I love baking. The most popular recipe in our family are crepes with honey. They are always the first to go on any playdate or potluck. But please – do not forget about fruits. It is sweet but also healthy. Also, giving your kids and their friends some finger food and milk cocktail will definitely earn some respect on this playdate 🙂
Safety and photo proof
Do not forget to send some pictures from your playdate to parents who dropped off their kiddo with you. Don’t overdo it though – a couple of photos are enough. In pictures, show them how kids eat or play. It is a small thing but it could make another parent more relieved and calm. When I get some small proof that kids are enjoying themselves on a playdate, I stop worrying too much for dropping them off with other parents. They are happy, I am happy. Win-Win.
Just let kids play!
The intention of a playdate is to give children time to interact freely in a less structured environment than other planned activities might provide (that what Wikipedia says). There are so many benefits of free play: developing social skills, imagination, growing communication skills, problem-solving skills. Be close with them not for mentoring but for security. Try not to intervene. Of course in the modern world, playdate can suddenly become what I call “a screen date” when your kiddo gathers their friends around TV or iPad. That is also fine but I believe it should be limited. They can do this any other time but playdate is for playing *together*! Watching cartoons or playing video games can be done at any other time.
Support your kids’ friendships. Give them an opportunity to invite classmates for a playdate or drop them off at their friends’ house. After all, if kids are happy then parents are happy too. Win-win.
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