When Little Bean started at school I had every intention of starting with playdates quite early on but in truth, I think it wasn’t until nearly the end of her Reception Class that I finally plucked up the courage. To be fair to myself, I was pregnant with Jelly Bean when she started school and he was born in the January so I was firstly tired with a big bump and two little ones and then I was shattered with two littles ones and a newborn. I remember being nervous for the whole school day before I had to go to school to collect Little Bean and her friend.
Understandably they were both extremely excitable but the playdate went well because I had a plan in place. To date we have only had one unsuccessful playdate so not too bad really. So, if like me you are worried about an upcoming playdate for your school-goer then check out my tips below and you’ll sail through it with a breeze.
- Let your child choose their friend(s) – It’s easy to think that child A looks like a lovely, well behaved child to invite to your house but if your child really isn’t friends with them then it’s not a good start.
- Set start and end times BEFORE the playdate. We tend to do playdates after school until around 6pm which then gives the children an hour or so to wind down before bedtime, otherwise you’ll be peeling them off the ceiling.
- Make sure you have the parents contact details and important information like food allergies/pet fears etc. I always check with the parents first about what food/drink is best for their children and if I’m going to be doing something different like crafts or a trip to the park then I check that the parent is happy for me to do this. If you have pets then it’s a good idea to make sure before the children arrive that they like animals and if not, keep the pets locked away with a special toy or chew.
- Double playdates are easier than one. If like me you have more than one child it can actually be really tough to keep younger siblings out of the way so invite them a friend along too and you might even get time to enjoy a quite cuppa whilst the children are busy entertaining their friends.
- Keep their ‘stuff’ together. As soon as you get home from school, place all of the friend’s belongings by the front door. It will make you look a whole lot less scatty when their parents come to collect them.
- Set rules. Nobody wants to be the parent that has to tell other kids off so make sure that all children know the ‘house rules’. Mine is that nobody plays in Mum and Dad’s room and no potty mouth. Keep it simple.
- Snacks are your friend. Organise simple snacks and drinks that will keep them topped up until tea time and stave away blood sugar highs and lows.
- Let them get on with it. It’s so easy to try to control their play but if they are happy to just play in the playroom, garden or bedroom then leave them to it. (Although, do be careful of eery silences, we all know that generally means they are up to no good). We have had the odd date where the visiting child hasn’t wanted to play the same game as my kids so then I got out the crafts and suddenly they find a common interest. Personally I like Summer playdates as we can usually kill an hour at the park first.
- Don’t trade toys. In the heat of a playdate it’s easy for your child to suddenly want to become all-giving and tell their friend they can take their favourite doll home . . . until the doll has left the house and then it’s tears before bedtime. Incidentally, if your child has toys that they don’t like to share, get them locked away BEFORE the playdate to save on arguments.
- Update the parents. When the playdate comes to an end, make sure you fill the parents in on any incidents or arguments that may have occurred. It’s not telling tales but it will certainly make for a more clear picture than the child going back and giving their account which will often sound more dramatic.
Hopefully your playdate has been a big success, your house is still standing and the children are still friends. If they did have a fall out, don’t stress, it happens. Remind yourself they are excited, have had a full day at school and it’s natural. Chances are they will have forgotten all about it by the time they get to school tomorrow.
Finally, don’t expect a playdate in return. It’s nice to think that playdates will be reciprocal but in all honesty, playdates don’t fit into every families lifestyle and routine so as long as the children have had a great time then that’s what matters.
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