As a parent, I wish I had a rule book, a guide, a list of ‘how to’s’ for SO many of our day-to-day encounters. Play-dates are no exception. Thus far my play-date successes ranges (my oldest is eight) from complete success, to episodic crying, to wild monkeys taking over my home. Today, I run a play-date much differently than I did in the beginning of my parenting tenure. I have learned from my previous mistakes, evolved-a-bit, and have arrived at a compilation of ‘how-to’s for a successful play-date either at your home or out in the world.
If the play-date is at your house:
1.Speak to Mom or Dad before to make arrangements for a start/end time. End time is a must. It helps you to orchestrate the timing of their play.
2.Probe to see if there is ANYTHING that you should know… can’t watch a particular show, is afraid of cats, likes to play outside – needs gross motor (this may curb the occupation of the wild monkeys). Like with anything in life, know your audience.
3.Prepare your child. Review any rules of the house. Review your expectations.
Mine are the following:
- Have FUN
- If you choose to play in the playroom/outside – your brother will be involved – deal with it, be kind. Your bedroom is your alone-zone. A reminder - location is your choice.
- CLEAN-UP one thing before moving into the next. Bottom line, clean up after yourselves! A worthy one to emphasize.
- Ask your guest if you can get them anything (I do check in regarding food and water needs – as I would hate for dehydration/starvation to happen on my watch). I remind my daughter that it may be easier for a friend to tell you they are hungry than to tell me. I ask that she make herself available and open to the role of hostess/host. I do ask that she confirm snack/drink choices with me.
- Guests are to be invited to make the first choice of what-to-do/what to play with/what you will need to share. I explain she needs to make sure her guest is aware of what we have. If your house is like mine – options are stored throughout the house; Boardgames live here, Barbies over there, Dollhouse lives upstairs, etc. Remind your child of his/her options.
- I remind my daughter of how she feels when she goes out into the world and ask that she treat her friend the way she would like to be treated. I explain, it is the hostess job to make her guest feel comfortable. Kids are really good at relating feelings.
- Have FUN – worth repeating.
Child arrives. Greet them at the door, with your child. Welcome them into your home. Remember – they may feel uncomfortable. New house, new smells, new friends… Give them a minute to get comfy and then review any “rules” of the house.
I like to:
- Show the child where our bathrooms are located.
- Ask the child if they are hungry or thirsty. If not then, maybe later, just ask. I invite them to feel comfortable to ask me/tell me anything. Being a guest out in the world isn’t easy.
- Review with the children (your child first and foremost) any sort of limitations/expectations you may have.
Example, I have a younger son – he is a factor in all that we do. I find that just by saying that out loud – kids tend to be more patient with him and me.
Another example – list the rooms that the kids can play in. It is ok to limit play to the playroom/bedroom.
- Be available through out the entire time. Listen for any flair-ups that may happen. They are relatively new to this Earth and surely new to relationship management. Help them. These are life skills that need finessing. Fairness and kindness is hard work. Hosting a guest or being a guest are not innate skills. Help them – worth repeating.
- If you hear a lengthy lull in the action, intervene. It maybe time for a show/movie to re-group? How about a craft? Outside anyone? Maybe a change of scenery/trip to the park - if ok’d in advance.
Play-date is out in the world:
Reverse aforementioned with a few varieties.
- Be up front with Mom or Dad about your wishes – whatever they may be. Don’t feel overprotective, over-reactive, he/she is your kid – set limits if you need to.
- Speak to your child about your rules – remind him/her how they apply both at home and out in the world. If it wouldn’t fly at home – don’t do it when you are out of the home. Make them responsible and accountable.
- Remind them of their voice.
- Remind them to be respectful.
- Tell them to be inclusive – if there are siblings, neighborhood friends, get along.
- Have fun. Be open… to different/new meals, snacks, surroundings, etc. You will be home soon enough – enjoy your time!
- This is a great learning experience, enjoy (worth repeating)!
In summary, we all have to learn to be good friends. Sure, much of what I mention is common-sense, no doubt. I believe these reminders help my daughter figure “it” out. Help her to become a better friend. Help her friends to know what to expect from her and us. It also helps me to navigate the land of “girls” – not a place that comes with a map. Good luck!