So, you found the perfect play date mate for your child! This is an important step, helping to ensure a well-balanced, socially-adept childhood. No pressure or anything. You’ve never had a play date before; likely you’re as nervous as you were on your first real date! No worries, though, because here are some simple, practical tips for making your kid’s play dates simple and fun, the way they’re supposed to be!
First, Stop Stressing. Unless you picked a preppy, pretentious family with whom to have said play date, just dress yourself and your child normally, in play clothes. You don’t need to get the car detailed or get a bikini waxing—and your child doesn’t need his teeth whitened or highlights put in. Just you and your kid are enough for a good time.
Have an Exit Strategy. Not wishing the whole thing badly, but have something in reserve for if things fail miserably. Sometimes it’s a terrible match between your child and theirs, but you never know until it’s happening. So, keep the date short to start out with, and it doesn’t hurt to have an errand or event afterward that could suddenly become more urgent in the event of a kid-sized meltdown.
Easy Does It. The last think you should do with a shy child is to plunk him or her down in the middle of a busy play-date with a bunch of strange kids and expect miracles. That is a recipe for disaster, actually. Start slow and start small: one new kid, on your home turf, or on a common ground your child is familiar with.
Don’t Push. Think of it a bit like a date: don’t push it. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Sometimes it will take a bit of time to elapse before they truly start warming up to each other.
Choose Play Friends Wisely. If you have a shy child, don’t ask the rowdy, rambunctious neighbor kid over as your first choice. Try to find someone more like your child, who won’t frighten or overwhelm them.
Provide Common Ground. If the date is on your home turf, have some cool stuff to play with and do available, to avoid boredom. Do something fun, like go to a kid’s museum or animal exhibit, where the kids can get tactile. Get outside so they can roughhouse. All these things are conducive to bonding.
Put the Pets Away. No matter how wonderful Fluffy or Whiskers is, it’s best to put all pets out of harm’s way until the play date is over. Some kids are afraid of animals, some get crazy over them and can cause strange reactions in a normally tranquil pet, while others are allergic. Always ask about pet allergies before volunteering to host a play date, to avoid uncomfortable moments.