Nili Geldwert, M.A. CCC-SLP and Julie Pike, M.A., CCC-SLP
Yay! Your child wants a playdate. Where do you begin?
First, find a calm time in which you know that you have your child's attention and sit down with them. You know your child best, so you may want limit the amount of information you provide if your child gets anxious when given a lot of information to process. Some children need a day or up to a week to process and prepare for a play date, while others may become more anxious when given any advance notice. It's important to allow your child processing time when giving new information and asking them questions. Encourage them to ask you questions about the play date.
PRE- PLAYDATE STRATEGIES
1. Choose a time in which your child is well rested and at their best. This is usually on weekend mornings and right after school if their schedule allows.
2. Review the big picture with your child: Who is coming? What activities will be offered? When is their playmate coming? Where will they play? How long will they stay? See the picture below highlighting how you could provide this in a visual way for your child. Notice all you need is a pen and paper. Keep it simple and clear.
3. Use a calendar to mark when the play date will occur.
4. A play date should last approximately 1-2 hours. It's just enough time for them to warm up to each other, play and end on a good note!
5. Favorite toys are usually difficult for a child to share. It might be helpful to remove these toys and put them away during the playdate. If your child is ready to make this decision with you, take their lead.
6. Develop and write down a simple list of house rules to review with the children. For example: use an indoor voice, no running, use your words to ask for something, etc.
7. Plan a joint structured activity, such as a science experiment or cooking. Pinterest has great, simple and engaging activities.
8. Plan an activity where the kids can share the materials such as building blocks or pretend kitchen toys. If your child is ok with winning or losing, a board game provides a structured activity.
9. Have your child decide on several snack options for them and their friend. Snack is a great grounding activity if the kids start behaving like “Max from Where the Wild Things Are”.
1. Just before the friend enters, role-play what your child should say when they arrive. For example, "Hi! Come on in. Can you please take your shoes off?"
2. Review the rules for your house that you have written down.
3. Write down a simple schedule for the playdate based on the pre-playdate planning.
And off they go...
Ok parent, here are some tips for you to follow during the playdate! A playdate can be messy even with all the pre-playdate planning.
1. Make yourself available but don't hover. Depending on your child and the playmate this means that you are in the same room as them but are doing something else (reading, chatting with the other caregiver).
2. If a conflict arises and no one is in danger, let the kids try to resolve it on their own. If they need support, you can remind them of the playdate rules or offer suggestions.
3. Provide a warning that it's almost time for the next activity. Five minutes should be suffice but you can do this earlier than planned if you notice "Max the Wild Thing" coming out.
Playdates can go on without a hitch. Sometimes they are messy and sometimes a mixture of both. All of this is ok. When things have settled down, take some time to reflect as to what worked really well for your child and what needs to be tweaked. Congratulations, now you can plan your next playdate!