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.

August 9, 2010

7 Ways to Help Your Child’s Teacher

Guest Blog by Sarah Combs

back to school

Back to School Image Courtesy Pane, amore e creativita

Back-to-school is in full swing! School supply lists and school uniforms are everywhere you turn; it’s time for the lazy days of summer to come to an end and the routine of school days to begin.  Whether you’re a parent of a preschooler or a third grader, this means turning over your little ones to the capable hands of a teacher. But this doesn’t mean that you should sit back and relax! Teachers are always in need of help, and now more than ever. In almost all districts, our teachers are being asked to do more and more with less and less – budgets are tight, class size is swelling and assistants have been cut from many programs. Parents can participate in the classroom by helping with parties, recess, fundraisers, or even just everyday activities; the options are endless. Being a part of your child’s education lets them know that you’re truly interested in their success at school, and provides you with a priceless experience. Help your child’s teacher help your child! Here are seven ways that parents can actively participate at school:

  1. Basket of classroom supplies. Find out what supplies might be missing in the classroom. Ask each family to donate one or two small items: pencils, markers, glue, stickers, tissue, hand sanitizer, table wipes, etc. Ask for gift card donations from office supply and craft stores to help with classroom supplies. Parents who can’t afford to donate can participate by cutting coupons for frequented retailers.
  2. Organize a reading circle and classroom helpers. Use VolunteerSpot to coordinate volunteers -‐ each parent signs up to help once a month in the classroom — reading, helping with science experiments, and tutoring kids needing extra help.
  3. Share your special skills and traditions. Compile a list of special skills, hobbies, or family traditions that parents can share with the class throughout the year. Help organize and execute parties and class projects that highlight different aspects of each child’s culture, and introduce them to new traditions.
  4. Wish Notebook. Put together a wish notebook with teacher surveys and share it with parents. The surveys should ask teachers to list ways in which parents can help them either inside or outside of the classroom. Parents can help in the areas they feel most comfortable.
  5. Paperwork Parents. Take turns making copies, grading papers, or preparing classroom supplies after hours. Use VolunteerSpot’s online scheduling tool to coordinate the effort. If parents can help once or twice a week, that’s a tremendous time savings and welcome break for your teacher.
  6. A personal note from students. Ask each child to write a letter or note  expressing what they are looking forward to this year and why they like their teacher. Then, throughout the first semester, present the notes, one at a time.
  7. Before and After. Take a photo of 4-5 children at a time at the start of the school year. Hold on to these and take pictures of the same groupings towards the end of the year. Prepare a before-and-after flip book to share with the teacher, along with notes and remembrances from the class.

Parent participation is crucial throughout the year, make sure that classroom volunteering isn’t only a back-to-school activity, get involved and stay involved in your child’s education. For more about Room Moms and Room Dads, check out VolunteerSpot’s free eBook, Room Mom’s Survival Guide. It gives tips for class parents, and provides fun class party ideas for the school year.

Author Byline

Room Mom


Guest post by Sarah Combs of VolunteerSpot, DOING GOOD just got easier! VolunteerSpot makes back-to-school planning a snap for parents and teachers with simple online sign up sheets – quickly organize classroom volunteers, school fundraisers, tournaments, carnivals, parent-teacher conferences, soccer snacks, Scout campouts and more!  Register on VolunteerSpot before October 1,2010 with promo code ‘TeachersSave’ for a chance to win $100 in classroom supplies for your favorite teacher from ClassWish.

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