Wednesday, 3 August 2011

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How to Organize a Playdate for Preschoolers?


Some of the playdates we had went well, but many didn't. Quite often, we talked our time away with the children running around and playing aimlessly. At the end of the day, many of us wondered what we had done to those precious time!!! Quite often, we didn't know when to leave, and only after the children became cranky, did we leave, which was way too late. It was also hard to manage the chaos, and when the children left, the place looked like a post-tsunami zone, with toys splattered all over the place. Some of the mothers didn't bother showing up for playdates anymore, while the host would think twice about hosting another playdate.... ouch!

While it is good that we are able to chill out and talk, while our children are busy playing by themselves, I think it is also important to make it educational. I want to be better at organizing playdates. I started learning from other's experiences. Here is what I have learned and looking forward to put it to practical application:

I. 4 Golden Rules:

1. Keep the Playdate Small

It is better to limit to one or two children. Three really is a crowd when it comes to toddler playdates according to Sara Wilford, director of the Early Childhood Center at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. With more children, it may be easy for one child to feel left out, and sharing of toys becomes more difficult.

2. Keep the Playdate Short

Keep it to 1 hour or 2 hours at most. Any longer than that and you are likely to have bored, tired, and cranky kids on your hands.

3. Plan a Programme

As with all things and events, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. In order for playdates to be fruitful, I realize from the book "On Becoming Preschoolwise" that it is very important to plan a schedule of programme. Keep it simple, and it also not have to be detailed or perfect, but it is good to have a rough idea what the programme should be. In this way, you won't feel overwhelmed setting up a playdate. It would be good to share the programme with the parents in advance, so they know what to expect, i.e. when the playdate is over. The children also know what to expect and it helps to prevent tantrums, when it is time to say goodbye. Of course, the plan is to serve us, and we should not get too disappointed, when things do not go perfectly as planned.

4. Clean Up After Each Activity

Before the kids get too involved in their play, explain that they need to clean up one activity before they can move on to the next. Waiting until the end of the playdate to initiate cleanup time leaves you with no leverage, and a much bigger mess. (If the kids simply refuse to tidy up, you can hold out a carrot — literally: "We're ready for snack time, you two — but you have to put the blocks away first.")

II. Sample Schedule of Programme:

Some of my friends with toddlers wanted to learn how they can implement Montessori Practical Life, so I have planned a Programme for Playdate cum Parents' Training Session on 20th August. Here is a sample schedule I have done:

10 – 10.30am: Welcome, let the children warm up and play together (30 mins)
10.30 – 11.15am: Montessori Time (45 mins)
11.15 – 11.30am: Snack Time (30 mins)
11.30am: Goodbye and see you again

III. Planned Activities Ideas:

Here are some activities which you can direct:

1. Craft Time

2. Playing Dress Up

3. Singing & Music Time (Listen to CD or playing and singing along with musical instruments)

4. Book Time (Looking at books together)

5. Montessori Time (Demonstrate how to do a Montessori activity)

6. Food Preparation Time

IV. Free Activities Station Ideas:

Give the kids two or three options and let them drift from one activity to another (or even create their own games):

1. Set up a play dough table;

2. Fill a plastic basin with water and let the kids dump, pour, and stir the water (never leave them alone, though — even a few inches of water can present a drowning hazard);

3. Stock a small sandbox or sand table with shovels and pails;

4. Put out paper and crayons or finger paints.

V. Tips Before & During the Playdate:

1. Talk to your child ahead of time about what activities the children could do together. Encourage your child before hand to be polite, be kind and to share their toys and to take turns to decide on which activities to play.

2. Let your child choose a few favourite toys that he doesn’t want to share and put them away temporarily. Put out toys you have more than one of i.e. puzzles, trucks, animal figurines, etc.

3. On the play date, welcome the friend to our home and help the children get started playing together. (Then watch and listen from the next room. Give them a chance to decide together what to play and to work out for themselves any problems that developed.)

4. After 30 - 45 minutes, the children will be ready for an activity that you could direct.

5. After 30 minutes, it will be snack time. You can guide the children to the Self-Service Pantry & Snack Bar to help themselves. They would also get to practice motor skills along the way, opening the jar lids, pouring themselves a drink, etc. In this way, you kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

6. After 30 minutes, you can have a second free playtime session or end the playdate, say home-sweet-home, goodbye and see you again. Give fair warning. Remind the kids that their time together is almost over. ("Five more minutes, guys. Time to finish your game.") If appropriate, preface their parting with a brief discussion about what they enjoyed this time and what they might like to do at their next get-together: "You two did so well building the block tower together. Would you like to play Legos next time?"

7. If it is a cooking playdate, before starting off the play date, make sure that you announce the ground rules and the proper etiquette that must be observed in the kitchen, so that the children will not run around carrying the knives or leave the stoves unattended. With these steps, you should be able to prepare a great and productive play date for your children.

VI. After Playdate:

1. After the play date, you should talk to your child.
2. How well does my child share?
3. Is my child bossy, or does he speak kindly to the other child?
4. How well did my child obey me in front of the other child?
5. Find out what he enjoyed doing and what he thought was hard to do.
6. Tell him what he did well.
7. Be sure to praise specific times when your child talked kindly, shared and obeyed.
8. Point out the behaviours that were not appropriate.
9. As you talk about the correct behaviours, it may be helpful to role-play so that your child can practice doing the right thing.

VII. References:
- On Becoming Preschoolwise

- http://www.mommybringshomethebacon.com/blog/working-moms-and-play-dates-how-to-organize-a-play-date-when-you%E2%80%99re-working-fulltime/

- http://www.babycenter.com/0_guide-to-great-playdates_63824.bc?showAll=true

- http://www.teachingstrategies.com/content/pageDocs/CC4_Ch7_exrpt.pdf

- http://www.suite101.com/content/kids-dress-up-clothes-a156517

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