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The thought of inviting multiple toddlers, aged 2, around to my house is a haunting one. Ted on his own is more than capable of creating enough mess to last me a lifetime and more than loud enough to leave my ears reverberating for most of the day, let alone if he was with all his pals on a playdate!
But despite the mess and the noise, playdates are more than worthwhile. There are plenty of benefits; spending time exploring what it means to be friends with other children and how to interact and understand how to play with others to name just 2. Aptamil Growing Up milks approached me to talk about how important playdates are. They’re currently running a campaign called ‘The Science of Play’ and we’ll be working closely with them to unpack just how important play is for our little ones.
So over the course of 3 blog posts, we’ll be exploring all things ‘playdate’ related. From the planning to some amazing activities. But first of all, we’re going to look at how to create the perfect playdate.
Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to making sure your playdates are the talk of the toddler group! (For the right reasons…)
The first thing to remember when planning a playdate; preparation is key. Spend time mapping out the timings, the guests and the activities. I’m not talking about a full on blue print, but just a quick plan to work to. By doing this you’re able to create the playdate around your schedule and your parameters. It’s things like making sure that you know how many children are coming, what time they nap, if they nap and what activities you’re going to do.
Perhaps the most crucial part of any playdate, and something we’re planning on devoting an entire post to. But planning engaging activities and offering a certain level of structure to the perfect playdate is important. A “free-for-all” playdate session carries a certain value in my opinion, but to create the ultimate, perfect playdate, you need to plan some activities for the children to participate in.
Painting on large sheets of paper, using a ‘tuff spot’ (see images) for some imaginary and/or messy play and using kitchen utensils in the sand pit are just a few examples of promoting purposeful play.
Now Ted is 2 years old, we’ve really noticed that he’s moving into that stage where he is more confident in his movement and therefore he enjoys more coordinated and physical activities, like playing outdoors with balls, bats and jumping. The Science of Play campaign from Aptamil Growing Up milks offers some fascinating facts about how children learn through play and during our recent playdates, it was amazing to see how true they are!
Ted, for example, has started to assert his authority with his pals by using the word ‘NO!’ This is quite new, but is very typical for 24 month olds. The other thing I noticed from the Science of Play campaign, was how much Ted relies on parallel play; he then copies what others are doing!
Knowing the science behind play can really help you plan your playdate. A great example of this is how we have made sure that at Ted’s playdates, we encourage lots of speaking as this is an area that we felt Ted needed some help with. But you could focus on lots of different things like socialising and movement skills. As Ted draws near to nursery school, we will be changing the focus to help him socialise with other children.
Whenever we plan a playdate for Ted, we always plan it around his nap times. If he hasn’t slept or just woken up, his mood is likely to impact how much he’ll enjoy his playdate. As I’m the one planning the playdate, working around his nap times is just common sense.
Messy play is often under-rated, primarily because, well, because it’s messy. A lot of parents (myself included) would have shied away from it. I’ve had to change my way of thinking on this, however, as it’s such an important part of play. Now, we always plan at least 1 messy activity when hosting a playdate. This means that we have to inform Ted’s pals, so they can bring appropriate clothing or at least a change of clothes.
Whilst I’m sure Ted would have a lot of fun playing with a bunch of 8 year olds, it wouldn’t really be suitable for the perfect playdate. Ted has lots of friends, all at various ages and so when we’re hosting, we try to make sure that the ages of the children coming are all similar and the activities are appropriate.
Despite planning the perfect playdate, it’s important to remember that when children are involved in anything, even the best laid plans need room for manoeuvre. We always keep something up our sleeve if needed!
There you have it, 5 tips that set you on your way to creating the perfect playdate. Make sure you keep an eye out for the next 2 posts in this series. Along with this one, you have everything you need to make sure that your playdates are purposeful, dynamic and stimulating.