Planning a Perfect Play Date

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By Michelle LaRowe

Play dates provide a wonderful opportunity for children to play with others and to practice their social skills, but if a play date isn’t carefully planned out, kids and chaos can be a recipe for disaster. Follow these steps for planning the perfect play date.

1. Prepare in advance. Set the time and the environment up for a winwin situation. Work around nap times, limit play dates to two hours and childproof the areas you’ll be using.

2. Make sharing easier. Take away any special toys that your child doesn’t like to share. Every child should have a few toys that are “off limits” to others. Putting these prized possessions away during play dates can head off potential sharing problems.

3. Set up stations. Blocks, kitchen play and games like Hullabaloo or Simon Says keep everyone actively involved. Activities that several children can participate in work best for group play.

4. Serve a snack. Having a light snack like fresh fruit, cheese and milk on hand can provide for the perfect break if things get tense.

5. Lay out the ground rules. Let kids know the rules before play time starts. “We play in this room, we use kind hands and we use our indoor voices.” Spelling out your expectations can eliminate blurry boundaries.

6. Look but don’t touch. Let the children play and learn to work out minor squabbles on their own. Unless it gets physical or emotionally hurtful, allowing kids to learn to work things out on their own is the best way to foster communication and negotiation and social skills.

Play Date Themes
Having a theme for your play date can make things super fun and provide a loose structure for your play time that can translate to
success. “On the farm” and “in the kitchen” are great play date themes. Collect and put out all of the toys and books that you have related to your theme, print out coloring pages that depict your theme and serve a snack that reflects your theme.

Excerpted from A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists. Revell 2010.

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