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If you have a preschooler, you know navigating social experiences for your child can be challenging. Following a few easy guidelines, you can put together the kind of preschool play dates your little one has been dreaming about. Here’s what you need to know about how to plan a preschool play date.
Networking for play dates can be challenging. After all, these are your children’s friends—not your own. A great place to start looking for play date friends is at shared activities and in the classroom.
On the sidelines of a soccer game with a fellow parent? Offer to exchange numbers to set up a preschool play date. Have a list of email addresses of all the parents in your child’s class? Send out a group email and offer a standing play date to get the ball rolling. These are low-pressure ways to begin creating a thriving social life for your preschooler.
Yes, play dates should be casual. A little planning can help them run smoothly, though. After all, things are bound to not go quite as planned when you’re dealing with a group of small children. Having everything in place in advance can help you smoothly navigate any difficulties.
If you’re hosting in your own home, you’ll want to create a defined area for the children to play in. You’ll want a comfortable area to supervise from as well.
Keep in mind that many parents of preschoolers also have younger children who may need to tag along to play dates. Having a play area that’s fenced off and fully baby proofed can be a great way to easily accommodate everyone.
Don’t have a great place to host a play date in your own home? Public play dates can be a great option for getting your kids together in a controlled environment. Great choices for locations where you can plan a preschool play date include libraries, parks, and children’s museums.
It’s Not Your Play Date
If this is a new group of children playing together, there may be some parallel play. There may also be a period of time where parents need to run interference for things to run smoothly. Once the group is playing nicely together, go ahead and give them some space.
Play dates are all about giving your kids the social experience they need to successfully navigate their peers. Let them try to work through issues on their own before you step in to help. You may be surprised how often the kids are able to resolve their own problems.
Don’t Be Afraid To Branch Out
Children can learn a lot from kids their own age. But there’s also plenty they can learn from older and younger children, as well. To help encourage growth and the development of social skills, try to offer a mixed age group get-togethers.
If your group of kids is large, they’ll likely naturally split into groups by age. If you’re looking to get your child to play with older (or younger) children, consider smaller groups. Sibling sets can be a great way to achieve this as well. Siblings are used to playing together and will easily absorb another playmate into the fold.
Post-Play Date Assessment
After the play date is over, take a good look at how it all went. Were there new kids in the mix that didn’t quite click? Every play date won’t be magical, and you may need more than one get-together before things fall into place.
Take notes about who plays well together and what the preferred activities are. Notice that a smaller group includes a left out child while a larger group doesn’t? Adjust your play dates as needed and consider having multiple groups of different children for a complete social experience.
The Perfect Preschool Play Date
You may be looking to set up a preschool play date, but the set up is just half of the experience. To help smoothly execute the play date, consider the following items as well.
Structured activities can be a lifesaver when you need to redirect the group. Look for activities that take the pressure off of sharing and favorite toys. Everyone can participate and it can help reset an anxious or unhappy group. You might even pick a location with lots of fun activities around. For example, if you meet at a playgrounds, the kids can do some climbing, go down slides, and swing on the swings. If someone in your group has an outdoor playhouse or a trampoline, these can be great centers of activity as well.
Preschoolers Love To Snack
Being social and playing can eat up your child’s energy reserves. Replenish their levels (and help avoid meltdowns) by offering them a healthy snack. Don’t forget to include water or other healthy beverages for your little ones—especially if they’re running around outside in the sun.
When You’re The Play Date Attendee
You won’t always be planning the play date. While being an attendee can be a nice change of pace, it does change what you’ll be bringing to the table. Here are some things you’ll want to do when attending a play date:
- Ask about pets: Does your child have allergies? Do they not have experience with dogs? Whatever the case may be, letting the host know your child’s needs can help them better prepare. If it’s something like an allergy that can’t be worked around, offer to host or to meet up elsewhere.
- Ask about firearms: Whether you have guns in your own home or not, you want to know your child is safe where they play. Ask if the host has firearms in their home and how they are stored. If you’re uncomfortable with the response, you can also offer an alternate play date location.
- Ask what you can bring: Like other social situations, you want to be a courteous guest. Ask if there’s anything you can do or bring to make the play date run more smoothly. A toy or two can be a great idea. You might bring a kids walkie talkie set, a remote control car or something else that they care share. You’ll appreciate the gesture when it’s your turn to host.
Successfully Plan A Preschool Play Date
These tips can have you putting together play dates in no time at all. Set up a structure and run with it. Don’t be surprised if, before too long, you have a dedicated group of parents working to make the play dates happen.
Once your group is up and running, parents are likely to start taking turns hosting. This is a great way to reduce the pressure and prep time that goes into hosting a play date. And the social benefits for your little one? You certainly won’t regret learning how to plan a preschool play date.