Children just love to meet up with their friends and have a play. So many important skills are learnt with this experience, sharing, manners, language, disagreements, social, just too name a few. But having playdates is always fraught with difficulties, but rather than avoid playdates because of difficult behaviour, you need to look at them as a parent as a learning experience and a time to practice and teach. But there are ways to make it easier!!
Whether the playdate is in your home, a friends or the local park, limit it to two hours. Usually with children you have a good time for about 1 ½ hours and then it starts to disintegrate and ends badly. You want to end the playdate on a good note. The longer you go for the tiredier your children become, the more they disagree, snatch toys, the harder it is to get them to co-operate to leave.
Before your friends come to visit, its a great idea to work out with your child what toys they do not want to share with their friends. This is okay. Then take those toys from the main play area, ie. Lounge, living etc and put in their room out of reach and close the door. Say to friends that we are playing in the lounge room today, not the bedroom.
Also decide what toys would be good to get out to play with..... the dressing up box?, wooden blocks? Lego? Games? Sort? Train set? Musical instruments? Choose 3 or 4 activities and get the boxes out and place around the lounge, living area with space in between. They do not need to play on top of each other.
As the children play, be sure to praise getting along, playing well together, sharing behaviours. Step in if there are difficulties, eg sharing, and do some teaching like ‘Jack was playing with that truck, when he finishes playing he will give it too you. Then ask Jack, ‘will you give it to Ben when you finish playing?’
Once the two hours have gone by and it’s time to finish up then say that you are going in 5 minutes. This is a warning time, at 1 minute left, go to your children and if in a house, do a tidy up of the toys that everyone has been playing with. Get the children involved in this, praise any attempt or co-operation with tidying up.
Once the tidy up is done, then it is time to leave, so go. If you hang around chatting for another 15 minutes or more, it becomes confusing to your child that when you say its time to go you don’t actually go. Then on other occasions when you want to leave when you say, they will think that they really have another 15 minutes of playing left. Dramas will ensure! So say ‘goodbye’ and leave till next time.
If you find it difficult meeting in your house as your friends overstay the visit, then a park is a great idea as when your children have had enough you can simply leave. They can stay if they like. When it is in your house, it is difficult to move them on when it’s clear the children have had enough or are getting tired. Enjoy your playdates!