P For PlayDates

I grew up in a small colony in a small town. Back then, parents mostly left us kids to our own devices. We would play out in the garden adjoining our two-storied apartment block. Many of the mothers in the colony were fulltime homemakers so they could just peer out from the terrace or windows, to occasionally look in on us ensuring that we weren’t upto any mischief. Most of our play time was outdoors and involved ad hoc or improvised games. If we happened to have a large group, we would play team games forming one or more teams.

 

Now, things are different. High costs of urban living mean that often both husband and wife need to work. Large open play spaces adjoining the apartment complexes have become a scarcity. Children themselves have so much on their plate now that playtime is now far less frequent than it used to be. Add to this, relocation to new cities on account of job changes, adjusting to new friends and so on, and you can well imagine how difficult it must be for a child.

 

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So here’s where you need to intervene and “organize playdates”.  By properly planning and hosting a playdate, you can not only ensure that your child has a fun time but also be present nearby during that time. But fun is spontaneous, what’s the joy in a “planned” or “organized” playtime, you ask? Well, the actual activities during the playtime can definitely be spontaneous, but the timing and the participants can do with some organizing.

 

Here are a few suggestions:

 

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Team up to make the invites

 

You and your child can together decide whom to invite, and when. This can especially help if your child is shy, introverted, and hesitant to make the first move. By joining hands and encouraging the child to open up to his or her favorite people, you will be helping your child in a subtle way.

 

Small is good

 

At the outset, give preference to small groups. Even three can be a crowd when it comes to playdates. So, you can try to limit playdates to one or two friends at a time. This way your child can focus better and each participant in the playdate gets good amount of attention.

 

Short is sweet

 

Considering that even children these days have hectic schedules with long school hours, lengthy homework, and so on, it would be best to plan for short play dates. Once you are comfortable organizing a few playdates successfully and you find that it can stretch some more, then you should go for longer playdates. But until then, keep it short. You don’t want your child so exhausted after the playdate that he skips his homework regularly.

Family-having-picnic-on-beach

 

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Smart Snacking

 

The children who come for the playdate may probably have a snack or two if it stretches for more than an hour. Do ask his/her parents about any potential food allergies, sensitivities, or preferences. It wouldn’t do if you offered a platter of chicken nuggets to a child who is being brought up vegetarian. Also, go easy on the junk food as far as possible and try to stick to healthy snacks.

 

Avoid computer-based/digital games

 

The purpose of a playdate is to promote social interaction at the same time have fun. So ensure that the children keep away from digital devices and computers for the entire duration of the playdate. Also, inform the parents of the children coming over so that they are aware and in case your child goes to their house someday, you can hope for a similar treatment.

 

Controlling without being a dictator

It may so happen that the kid(s) you invited over may not be well-behaved or obedient. There could arise situations where you may need to correct his/her behavior.

 

Instead of simply yelling or scolding them, be considerate and keep in mind that the rules may be different in his/her house. The child needs to understand why you’re insisting on certain rules.

For instance, wearing shoes inside their own house may be a common thing and may not be causing any nuisance, whereas in your house, due to a dirt road outside for example, the shoes may bring in dirt so you have a firm rule to keep shoes at the door. Likewise, maybe you don’t encourage eating in the living room and want to rebuke the visiting child/children for leaving crumbs all over the living room carpets. Instead of yelling though, be gentle and point out where they can sit to eat.

 

Above all, encourage the kids to be creative, interact with each other, and have fun. For that, is the purpose of the playdate!

 

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