5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Play Date

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Getting the kids together for a play date provides the perfect opportunity for them to develop their social skills, master the art of sharing and learn to interact with others in a group setting.

But how do you handle it when your child won’t share his toys, your friend’s child hits yours, and your play date just doesn’t seem to go as planned?Ensure your next play date is a success by putting these 5 play tips into action:

1. Choose a time and a place that sets the children up for success. Work around your child’s sleeping and eating schedule and be sure to childproof the area of the house you’ll be using for your play date. You’ll also want to limit play dates to no more than 2 hours.

2. Make it easy to share. Have your child put away those toys he has a hard time sharing. Every child has a special toy or two that they prefer to keep to themselves.

3. Utilize themes and stations. Set up your play area with different themed stations. Gather all of your farm toys and place them in one corner of the room, put all of your blocks in another and put all of your kitchen toys in another. Be sure to have one area set aside for a quiet activity like reading or coloring. Having themed play stations can help to prevent bickering over toys because there several similar toys grouped together.

4. Set the ground rules. Once your guests arrive, brief them on the house rules and the consequences for breaking them.  “We will be playing in this room, we use our indoor voice and we keep our hands to ourselves. If you can’t follow these rules, you’ll have to take a break from playing.” Try to let the children work out any conflicts on their own, unless they are physically or emotionally harmful. Allowing children to resolve small issues (like who gets the tractor first) on their own can help them to develop their problem solving skills. While it’s always a good idea to give another child’s parent the opportunity to address inappropriate behavior, if you see a child engaging in inappropriate behavior on your play date, offering a gentle reminder (like “Luke, remember hands aren’t for hitting”) should be enough to call their parent’s attention to the behavior. If it isn’t, redirect the child to another activity or ask the parent to intervene.

5. Serve a healthy snack. When things start to get too rowdy or you feel like the kids just need a break from playing, offering a healthy snack, like fresh fruit and milk, can provide everyone the breather they need and the opportunity to re-enter the play date on the right foot.

The next time you’re planning a play date put these 5 tips into action. With a little forethought and preparation, your next play date will be one that both the kids and the adults enjoy.