Cultivating a bromance.
Playdates used to be all about babies drooling while moms had a chance to sit/chat/vent and maybe, MAYBE, finish a cuppa before it got cold (for once). But that was many moons ago and times have changed. How exactly do you playdate it when the kids actually want to, well, play?
Prep and then disappear.
A mom recently asked us for a how-to for her son’s first solo playdate. He’s been in daycare for a few years, so playdates haven’t been a priority/necessity. But when he started JK in the fall, he started connecting with similar-minded Lightning-McQueen-loving kids. It was only a matter of time before he wanted to invite his new besties over to play. Here’s what we suggested:
- Keep it one-on-one. It’s hard enough for two younglings to figure out how to play together, so three is definitely a crowd. Any more than that and you’re just asking for trouble/arguments/tears.
- Prep the toy area with your munchkin beforehand. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, highly recommended, for you to both decide which fave toys are off-limits, and then get them outta there. Until you know your kid’s new bud, err on the side of “If I liked to break things, how could I wreak the most havoc?” and remove accordingly. We’ve had many a LEGO set sent to a galaxy far, far away pre-playdate to avoid potential destruction.
- Prep your mini-me beforehand. Have a quick convo so he knows what’s acceptable when his friend comes over, and more importantly, what’s not acceptable if he wants to have future playdates. Definitely make it clear if you’re not cool with two little monkeys jumping on your bed and brainstorm consequences if he’s whining, rude, or doesn’t want to share. This is also a good time to work out toys/games he can offer so you’re not hearing an endless loop of “I don’t know, what do you wanna do?” on the big day.
- Don’t over-plan the activities. The first chunk of the first date will be them running around to explore whatever/wherever they can. Let them loose.
- Ask about allergies before the parent of your kid’s new BFF drives away. Sure, they’ll likely offer this info without being asked, but there’s a lot of first-time drop-off excitement and the message might get lost. It won’t make a good impression if you have to epipen their kid no matter how impressive your epipen skills are. Also doesn’t hurt to ask for a phone number while you’re at it.
- Set up some munchies so that when the new-toys-new-friend buzz wears off, the sugar buzz can kick in. We aim for healthier snacks à la fruit and cheese/crackers/yoghurt, but for a new friend we might splurge and buy juice/hot choc. Gotta at least try to be a cool parent sometimes.
- Hang out nearby but don’t interfere unless they’re struggling. If/when that happens, step in to break it up and get them back on track with something new/fun/interesting for all. And then walk away.
- Have a fall-back toy/craft/game if things really start to fall apart. Think low-key, as in puzzles/playdough/what-time-is-it-mr-wolf, because inevitably the more effort you spend prepping something super-cool, the less they’ll want anything to do with it. TV’s a last resort around here but hey, everybody needs a resort this time of year.
You won’t need to be on top of the playdates (from behind the scenes) for long. Setting them up to work things out on their own helps build their confidence, problem-solving abilities, and socializing skills. It also sets you up for a little bit of me-time and a chance to finish a cuppa before it gets cold… for once.
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