Episode 4: February 13, 2009
Hey There! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting. Today’s topic: Come out and Play! Tips for Safe and Fun Play Dates
Play dates are a wonderful way to get parents and toddlers together for some social time. This is a great time for your children to learn about sharing, socializing, and imaginative play. Play dates can be fun for all parties involved, but they can also have their fair share of drama. I would like to share with you some quick and dirty tips to make play dates more enjoyable for everyone.
The first tip I’d like to talk about is about time limits. It's a good idea to set a definite time limit for your play date, and make sure that all adults agree upon the set time. Toddlers can generally only tolerate about 45 minutes worth of an activity involving other children. Time limits can help prevent over-stimulation. If the play date is being held at a personal home, a set time limit will also help the host keep his or her own schedule intact. By keeping a set schedule parents can avoid missing regular nap times and meals or snack times. Children may not be able to say so, but they appreciate structure, and any parent that can keep the kids on a regular schedule will find they have much happier kids.
Time limits are not the only thing you should be discussing in advance. I highly recommend that all parents involved agree upon a few key elements before the scheduled play date.
In my opinion, the most sensitive subject will be discipline. While each individual parent should be responsible for their own children, it should still be agreed upon as to when discipline will be issued for disputes among the children. Do you let the children work out their own issues or do you step in immediately? Sometimes the kids do need to work things out on their own. This is part of learning social behavior. I personally encourage the kids to work out their disputes as much as is reasonable. Parents need to agree upon the line at which someone will step in and remove the child or children from the situation. When hitting, throwing, biting, pinching or any otherwise destructive behavior is occurring or about to occur then, most definitely an adult needs to take action. If you do need to point out a certain behavior to another parent regarding his or her own child, I recommend that you do this as gently as possible.
Another subject, which might come up during a play date, is snacks. Some parents carry their own snacks and give them freely while others have specific snack times during the day. If you want to provide a snack for your child, you might want to check with the other parents to see if they want to keep playtime snack free. You could also plan to have a group snack after playtime where all the kids can wind down together. Group snack is a great opportunity for story time!
Always be sensitive to food allergies and ages of the children involved. You should never feed someone else’s child without permission. If you have a regularly scheduled play date, you might consider alternating snack duty for each session.
When choosing a location for your play date always make it age appropriate. Make the surroundings as safe as possible prior to the play date. This also allows the children to play while the parents have more opportunity to relax and enjoy some socializing all their own.
Finally, I want to address adult behavior during a play date. We spend a great deal of time making sure our children are polite and courteous to each other. It seems, however, that oftentimes we adults need to be reminded that we should also treat each other with this type of respect. Cattiness can rear its ugly head once your start comparing your kids to someone else’s. We tend to be very guarded and sensitive during this type of conversation. Comparing children is often unavoidable when the simple fact that you have children is what has connected you in the first place. You should try not to get into comparison discussions about your children if at all possible. If you feel a conversation is headed in that direction, I recommend that you change the subject. If the other parent cannot resist the comparison conversation, just keep in mind that all children grow and learn in their own way and at their own pace. They are all amazing in their own individual ways. Remember to teach by example. Your children will be watching and listening as you interact with other adults. Keeping this in mind will often help you to remember to be nice to your friends. You are your child’s most important role model after all.
That’s it for now. Hope you enjoyed listening. Have a good time at those play dates and remember to play with your children often.
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This is your friend the Mighty Mommy wishing you happy and fun parenting!