Positive Playdates for All! Part 2
Part 2: The Play
The doorbell rings. If you’ve read Part 1 of Positive Playdates, you’ve set the stage for a fun playdate–that is, until the bejeweled princess crown simply can’t be shared, or Little Sister won’t stop turning the Lego forts into fairy houses. In fact, the toughest thing about hosting a happy playdate doesn’t have anything to do with making a peanut-free snack or keeping muddy footprints outside–it’s practicing positive pint-sized friendships.
Whether sharing, siblings, or plain old bad behavior is the problem, use these tips to reduce the drama so everyone can enjoy the play.
Call a rehearsal. Whether you’re seeking a successful playdate or preparing your kids for harmonious relationships down the road, nothing helps them “play well with others” better than a little training in conflict resolution. Practicing and role-playing discussing feelings, seeing the other person’s side of view, problem-solving and making a meaningful apology ahead of time will help your playdate run more smoothly.
Give everyone a role. Suggest games and activities that will include everyone–especially if more than two kids (including siblings) will be playing together.
Memorize your lines. If you notice a problematic trend in your child’s playdates (or with specific playmates), take the opportunity to anticipate conflicts and prepare for them. For instance, if the kids constantly roughhouse indoors, encourage them to play outside from the get-go (or at least while they get it out of their systems). Or if one playmate frequently acts up, prepare to divert the misbehavior with a calm voice and in a positive way.
Change the scene. Addy’s playdate is going well–that is, until her brother Gus decides to steal the show (and the pretend cupcakes). If this is a common occurrence, you’ll need several strategies to address it. First, before the playdate, schedule 10 minutes of one-on-one time between siblings to allow Addy to fill Gus’ attention basket so he isn’t craving attention from Addy while she has her friends over. Then, tell Addy that while she can’t control Gus, she can control her environment. Set the rule that any toys in the common area are shared with Gus, while any toys in her room (or her side of the room) are off limits. She and her friends are welcome to retreat away from the family room at any time if they don’t want to play with Gus – as long as it’s done with kindness. Finally, put the spotlight on Gus by spending one-on-one time with him during the playdate, so he has a positive experience, too.
Allow for an intermission. Even the best of friends might need a break from each other’s company. If you sense trouble brewing, suggest an activity that gives everyone a little breather and doesn’t require (much) sharing. Crayons, Play-dough, music, puzzles or a snack might do the trick–or a short DVD as a last resort as you wait for the other moms to arrive for pickup.
With these tips, you can host a star-quality playdate that’s fun for all!
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