I recently realized that as a Mother, there are some ways I can support my Daughter in strengthening her school friendships: hosting a successful playdate is one of these!
I would be lying to say that I do not dream about a relaxing Friday afternoon, instead of adding some more little chit-chatters to my Little One 😅 But honestly, I also got excited when we started to send out the invitations, plan the food and some games to play… I was (nearly😅) sure it was still going to be an amazing Friday evening!
My fears? I did not know the girls that well, and I became the one responsible for them for a few hours… Reality: it all turned out great! I already had the assumption, that kids tend to behave better when their parents are not around 😁 And luckily I was right! After the first few shy minutes, they started to wander around in our home, check the toys, and sooner than I expected, engaged themselves in some games together😊
Why is it Important for Kids to Have Playdates?
Apparently, it is not only me as a Mom who feels the importance of playdates, according to recent research,
over the last 20 years, opportunities for young children to engage in self-directed free play with peers outdoors or during the school day has dramatically declined. Consequently, it is likely that play dates, defined as pre-arranged social contact at home, have become increasingly significant play environments for children.
Their main findings include:
- Play dates are important contexts for children to experience relatively unstructured free play.
- Play dates may provide unique opportunities for independent imaginative play.
- Access is not universal with some children at risk of exclusion.
- Play dates are often effortful and stressful for parents.
- Parental supervisory styles alter the quality and nature of children’s play.
Well, you can also see, that no one is denying that playdates might be stressful for parents – but still, totally worth it 😊
How Do You Plan a Perfect Playdate?
Let’s start with preparation… organizing any event (from the smallest to the biggest) has a few main common steps that are worth following:
1. Before Sending the Invitations
I would encourage you to before even starting to plan your kid’s playdate, have some chat about his or her ideas on it.
Try to figure out (feel with your mom’s instinct 😊), if your child would like to invite some schoolmates home at all 😅
If so, it is a great start!
It is also important to find a bit out about all the kids planned to be invited… When starting in a new community, it can be a bit challenging at the beginning to keep in mind who is who, who likes to play with whom, and who is angry with whom – especially as according to my experiences, this is something changing at least three times a day in their age 🤪
To sum up, before sending out the invitations, the 3 main things to decide are:
Who to invite
- Decision points could include if siblings are invited or not, whether parents should stay or just drop the kids and pick them up at the end.
- If you are trying to keep it simple, or it is the first time with a new group of kids, I would focus on one of my children (siblings can have another program that time), and invite 3 little friends. Why 3? Well, this would mean that they are 4 in total, so even if they are not playing all together all the time, chances that no one is left out are greater – and 4 kids still seem to be manageable by one adult 😁
The best timing mainly depends on the schedule of the kids, and their after-school routines, in general, I would vote for a Friday afternoon to start with:
- they can wind down together after the school week,
- without the need to rush home to prepare for the next day,
- and it does not intervene with possible weekend family obligations of anyone.
And it is also important to be able to invite the little friends at least 4-5 days in advance!
For how long
I would say 2-3 hours is a great length for the first playdate. If you start at 5 p.m. and ask the parents to pick their kids up around 7.30 p.m. they will have enough time to play and have dinner, but it will not mess up their own bedtime routines.
Now you can invite all the little friends and let their parents know about all the most important “cornerstones” of this upcoming amazing party! 😁
2. A Few Days Before the Playdate
- Confirm the date and time with the parents, and double-check if all the kids can come.
- Do not forget to send them your home address and any special information needed to get there 😅
- Ask about food allergies and other special needs of the kids, and the emergency phone numbers of the parents.
- Buy all the food, and drinks for the playdate! (Pro tip: ask Grandma to bake some cookies for the kids too 😉)
- Start brainstorming with your kid about what they will play during that afternoon…
3. On the Day of Your Super Successful Playdate
Take a deep breath, everything will be fine 😊
- Involve your Little One in getting everything ready for the party, this might include setting the table or even preparing some little gifts for the friends.
- When the kids arrive, double-check with the parents their phone numbers as well as the pick-up time.
- Be ready to get involved – at least at the beginning 😊 If this is the first time the kids are having a playdate together, it can be a great idea to help them get through their shyness and start playing together some fun games. According to my experience, this phase can fade away fast, and they will definitely not require a parent’s contribution later on 😅
- When they start to play freely together, the supervising parent(s) can deal with the dinner, or have some rest… and just listen from some distance, in order to be able to get involved again if necessary (and to avoid the kids going crazy too fast 😂)
What makes a playdate super successful?
We discussed it with my Daughter in advance, and only set some really basic requirements – that would make us both content:
- Nobody is hurt 😅
- They all had fun and played well together!
Well, I secretly added nothing is broken too 😅
4. After the Playdate
I find it important to involve my Daughter in all the chores that she is able to do, so it was obvious that she is helping me tidy our home after her party is over.
It was also a perfect occasion to discuss the playdate, and how she felt, what were the best parts and so on… I think this short “follow-up” is a great opportunity to understand better our own child, see how she behaves and feels around her schoolmates, and start planning the next playdate with our experiences in mind 😁
Playdates can require some extra effort from the parents – especially the hosting ones. But it gives a great opportunity for our kids to deepen their friendships and become more confident in school. Host parents also get the chance to understand better their Little One, and their behavior in social interactions with their schoolmates.