Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

August 16, 2010

Setting Up Fun Play Dates for Kids

Guest blog by Kelly Wilson

It’s time to head Back to School, which means new friends and play date opportunities for kids at any age.

New Buddies = Requests for Play Dates

New Buddies = Requests for Play Dates

Setting up play dates is part of the natural progression of your kids growing up, allowing them to practice social skills and have some fun doing it. Your kids will likely find children to play with from their new classrooms, along with kids from your neighborhood or other community groups.

Setting Them Up

The easiest way to begin setting up play dates is to talk with your own circle of friends or friendly neighbors. Decide if you’d rather have play dates with a larger group of kids. The advantage to this is that parents usually hang out while their kids play and you get some conversational time with other adults. This also builds community for all of the families involved.

Kids Play Date

Fun Play Date

If larger groups don’t appeal to you, choose one or two of your child’s friends to start with, decide on a day, and invite them over. Your child will probably be able to help you out by securing the necessary phone numbers during the school day. Don’t be surprised if parents hang out for a bit during the first play date – this helps their child feel more comfortable. Once families start reciprocating play dates, you may want to do the same!

The Ground Rules

Once kids come over, I like to review the house rules, where the bathroom is located, and when snack will be available. I go over with the kids where they’re allowed to play and if there are any spaces or things off limits, like my husband’s very expensive musical instruments downstairs (he’s a professional musician).

We also talk about making good choices, sharing, and talking nicely with one another. I warn all of the kids that if there are problems, there will be time outs issued and the sad final conclusion could be a friend going home. Although I’ve never had problems, it’s a good reminder to everyone involved to make good choices during the play date.

Snack is always served, and I check with the parents to make sure there are no food allergies. Try to keep snack foods healthy and fun, like grapes and Goldfish crackers or peanut butter and bananas. The kids always appreciate being fed!

Suggested Activities

If you prefer to provide structure during play dates, an easy way to think of activities is to go with the seasons. In winter months, provide a Christmas ornament or snowman craft. In the spring, paint small birdhouses or make an Easter craft. In the summer, water toys are fun in the backyard. Finding something seasonal to do can be very easy and require almost no preparation if kids use materials lying around your house.

However, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you need to provide any structured activities. One of the advantages to inviting your child’s friends over to play is that they get to play. Together, children develop social and cognitive skills through pretending, compromising and having the time and space to be creative.

Keeping Them Routine

Once you establish that you’re interested in play dates and host a few of your own, they’ll become part of your routine. Our neighborhood has had a play group once a week for a few years now, and it’s become an event that all of the neighborhood kids look forward to.

Important factors to consider when making play dates a fun family habit include:

* specific days and times that would work for play dates
* gathering email addresses of other parents interested in play dates
* putting play dates on the calendar
* scheduling play dates a week in advance

A couple of days before the scheduled play date, email or call the parents of the children invited as a reminder, and get ready to play!

Author byline

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson, Editor, Teaching Resource Center

Kelly Wilson is an editor for Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing high-quality, low-cost Teaching Materials for over twenty-five years.

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