Thread: Playdates!
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Old 06-24-2011, 06:36 PM   #1
PurpleButterfly
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Cool Playdates!

There are many ways we can help set our children up for success during playdates....please feel free to add your own, ask questions, whatever! Here are some ways I prepare for playdates (most often at our home):



Prior to playdate:
  • Prepare the play area
"Our friends are coming over to play today. Let's put away any toys you don't want to share." You could also suggest a special basket or pile of toys placed out specifically for sharing.


Mom-wise, your preparation could include a calming activity set out of sight from the kids to be brought out if needed. Play-doh and coloring supplies are my standard must-have's.



Depending on who is coming over, I may lock bedroom doors and leave only one play area open. This helps avert disastrous messes from kids who haven't been taught to take proper care of things or who just get gleefully visual pulling out all the new-to-them stuff. It also gives a calm and quiet space to retreat to if needed during the playdate as well as afterward.
  • Prepare your child's expectations
"What will you do if you start to feel angry or frustrated by your friends today? If you want to, you can go play in your room for a few minutes if you want to get away from everyone. You can always come to me if you don't know what to do."




"What will you do if your friends start making a big mess? You can remind them that if they want to play with your toys they have to take care of them and put them away. You can always come to me if you don't know what to do."
  • Prepare your child's body
Make sure his blood sugar isn't going to be at a low point during the playdate. I always give (and eat!) a healthy protein snack and water prior to playdates.

If your child is not well-rested, seriously consider rescheduling the playdate. Sometimes an irritable child can indicate comining down w/illness in which case most moms are very appreciative for rescheduled playdates even if it's just a possible suspicion. Btw, feeling sick or too tired for playdates applies to mamas, too!

During visit:

Watch for signs of "overload" in your child. If you see him getting frustrated or overstimulated, bring him to a quiet place for a snuggle before the sitation escalates. "I saw the girls playing with all your toys. Were you feeling frustrated that they weren't sharing or playing the way you wanted to? I can understand that." *hugs, ninnies, whatever helps you connect to each other and de-stress for 5-10 minutes* Then return to the group or respect his need to play independently if indicated.

Subsequently you can also remove your child from an overstimulated or aggressive playmate. "Come with mama for a few minutes...."

If hitting does occur, same as above but also address the behavior and tell him what to do next time. "You must have been so angry when they were taking over your toys. I would be angry, too. But that doesn't mean it's okay to hit. Use your words instead, like this, 'I'm angry that you're not sharing my toys!'

What about time-outs as a solution?
If we don't actively parent our children during social situations, how else are they ever going to learn how to process healthy, normal emotions and appropriately handle relationship dynamics? Putting a child in time-out or telling them they have to stay isolated somewhere doesn't empower them. It is confusing and shaming.

When we see our kids having a meltdown, they are essentially telling us, "Help! I'm out of control and don't know what to do. I need your help." These are prime teaching opportunities.

Kids left alone to feel badly about having normal feelings and reactions aren't going to learn how to identify and communicate their core emotional needs which are the foundation of every relationship.

ALSO....
Having an allergy-safe sugar and dye-free snack and drink to offer all the kids mid-playdate or whenever you see them starting to get restless or overstimulated can be very helpful. If you are attending a playdate at someone else's home, be prepared with water and healthy snacks in your bag for your child(ren), which can be a great calming distraction and keep blood sugar levels stable.

Help your child learn to stand up for his belongings being treated respectfully. Check in on any seperate play areas/rooms and guide the kids if more than a few items are out. "In this house we put toys away before we start playing with a new toy. Let's all grab one toy and I'll show you where we put it away!"

Remember that it's okay and perfectly polite to end a playdate. "Thank you so much for coming over to play today! We have another ten minutes before we need to start getting dinner ready/take a nap/eat lunch/take care of some errands before the day is over. Let's figure out when we can play together again soon!"

After visit:

Praise your child for the positive things you observed.
"You should be so proud of yourself for sharing your toys today!"
"Thanks for being patient with the baby when she was throwing your train. You're really growing up!"
"Wait til we tell Daddy how you cleaned your toys up so nicely today!"
"You were so smart to use your words when you felt angry today!"

You can also talk about things that didn't work and use the opportunity to help them better understand what they can do next time.

"It was so frustrating when those girls were taking your trains! Next time you can use your words or ask me for help. It's not always easy to share our things but you're learning, aren't you? You're a smart boy and I love you!"

Dinnertime with Daddy is great for review "lessons"! My kids have always loved to hear me describe the events of the day and especially love when I point out positive behavior to Daddy.

"Oh goodness it was so frustrating when those girls started taking his trains! He was very angry but we learned about using our words today, didn't we. Before the girls left, he even decided to apologize. Charlie, you're a wonderful boy and we love you."

"Today at the playdate, the baby started throwing Charlie's trains! He was so patient and gentle. I was really proud of you, Charlie, and you should be proud of yourself, too."



Playdates are really wonderful teaching opportunities, not only for us as parents but to be grace-filled examples to other parents who may not have witnessed gentle parenting in action before.

I love this picture of one of my besties's children, taken years ago during a very activity-filled birthday party...she was just about to turn 4 years old. She has been gracefully parented her whole life and this was her natural inclination when the party became too hectic for her. I found her reading in the peaceful quiet of my bathroom and had to snap a quick picture. She must have stayed in there half an hour before she felt ready to rejoin the party. She missed birthday activities that many other moms would have felt the need to pressure her to participate in to be polite, but her mom was able to simply honor her daughter's needs and allow her to act on natural instinct. She's 11 now and one of the most delightful people I know.

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Last edited by PurpleButterfly; 06-24-2011 at 07:04 PM.
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