We’re wrapping up our series on the importance of play dates by talking about the rules of play dates. For the enjoyment of everyone and to ensure your child is getting the most out of playtime it’s essential to set up your play dates for success. Here are a few rules of play dates to keep in mind:
Be respectful in someone else’s home. It’s a no brainer that you won’t intentionally damage a playmate’s home but it is your job to keep an eye on your child to make sure she doesn’t write on walls or scratch floors. If your child is engaging in an activity that you think could lead to damage, distract her with another play option. Always help clean up so you don’t leave the host’s house a mess. Also, respect the family’s rules regarding noise, where you can play, wearing your shoes indoors, snack time and anything else that applies to the household.
Keep play dates small. Young children do their best in small groups. Too many playmates in a confined space can be overwhelming for little ones. One or two other children is probably the right size for the first few years.
Keep play dates short. An hour to an hour and a half is an appropriate amount of time for play for under two-year-olds. For older children, gauge behavior and pull the plug at the first sign of fatigue or crankiness.
Take turns hosting. Alternate houses so each family has a turn to host. You can also switch things up every once in awhile by going to a park or planning an outing to the zoo, aquarium or children’s museum.
Give warnings before it’s time to go. Young children won’t have a grasp of time for awhile but you should give several warnings before it’s time to clean up and leave to avoid tantrums when it’s time to say goodbye.
Plan age-appropriate activities. If your little ones are ready for an activity, prepare it before the play date so you can get going on it right away. Allow plenty of time for free play as well.
Make sharing easier. If your child has a favorite toy that you know will be hard for her to share, put it away for the play date to avoid conflict. Then explain that all other toys are going to be shared during playtime.
Have fun with snacks. Always ask the other parents if their children have food allergies and if it is OK to serve a snack during your play date. Go for something easy to eat that won’t make a mess. A nutritious choice such as fruit is always a good option. For older kids you can make snack time fun by having the children help prepare or design their snacks.
Play dates are a wonderful way to teach your child valuable social skills. Enjoy and watch your child develop and mature through play with others.
Sources: Café Mom, Everyday Family, Parents, Mom.me and Education.com
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