During our recent vacation in Florida, my son had days full with playtime and playdates with his cousin Will. During the vacation we did some fun things with the kids including going to the beach, hanging out at a cool playground, going to a neat diner, and their favorite riding around my in laws’ property on the golf cart.
Watching the boys interacting and having fun reminds me of the importance of having regular weekend playtime and playdates for kids of any age. They are exploring the art of sharing, learning and having fun with each other.
Here are 5 important tips for a successful playtime:
One: Let them be kids
It’s important to have boundaries and let the other kids know those boundaries especially if the playdate is in your home. But some of us are too involved with our kids. When kids are not sharing, we interrupt and give our opinions right away, never giving them a chance to work things out. It is important to supervise playtime and step in when necessary. But kids are kids, let them learn the art of sharing and work things out on their own and have fun.
Usually their little disputes are over within minutes. If the behavior is “ugly” or the other kid’s habits are not a good influence then it’s important to re-think who you have regular playdates with.
Two: Have a plan
Having a planned playdate will help enhance kids’ time together. A playdate at the beach or local playground requires different planning and toys. Kids may become frustrated without proper toys at the beach.
I made the mistake of going to the beach without a shovel, swimsuit, or floatation devices. Luckily we had cars to play with and enough adults to hold on to each child while we played in the surf. It was fun but I “mom” ended up with wet shorts and when I needed to run into Walmart after the beach, I looked like I wet my pants…LOL!
Also have a backup plan incase things don’t go like you want. Keeping a stash of surprise toys, stickers, coloring books in the car or bringing to the playdate just in case is a good idea.
BONUS TIP: Don’t forget to pack your essential oil Mommy Kit. Joshie’s little body wasn’t used to the Florida environment. Lavender helped sunburn and Purification helped keep the bugs away.
Three: Snack and drinks
Remember when kids get together they can expend a lot of energy and need replenishment. Snack and drinks are important during playdates. They need to hydrate and refuel their little bodies.
Not all kids are alike. Knowing what your kid’s playdate likes and dislikes are important before the start of the playdate (if you are hosting and providing snacks and drinks.)
Healthy snacks can include fruits and nuts or cut vegetables, crackers and hummus. Sometimes having a variety is a good idea if you don’t know what the other children like. Interestingly Will, a picky eater, after hanging out with my son an “almost everything” eater started eating more diverse foods.
One of our favorite snacks was cut up peanut butter, banana sandwiches with Yacon syrup and a little Coconut oil blended in. They were delicious! Yacon is probably the best natural sweetener for you. It may be more costly than Agave and Honey but it really has more health benefits.
Four: Indoor physical activities
My son likes to run and jump A LOT. Will can play with cars for 30 minutes at a time. Joy another one of our playdate friends likes dressing up. A fun playdate that everyone can enjoy something is an indoor Play Place. These are great if weather does not permit outdoor activities, like here in Central NY most of Fall, Winter and some of Spring. I discovered a place here in Central New York called Kidz Club Indoor Play and Party Place. They have good deals and your child can play for a very reasonable price.
Although most indoor play places won’t let you bring your own food, if you or your child have food allergies, or really don’t want them eating processed foods, talk to the managers to see if they mind you bringing in some specific foods. Remember to patronize them for water and the things you can eat because like movie theaters, the majority of their profits come from food sales.
Although I don’t recommend not keeping an eye on your child, the Kidzplace has WiFi so bring your smart phone and you may be able to muti-task or go with a group of parents and take turns doing work.
Five: Time limit
There has to be a time limit in a playdate. Keep it short and sweet. An over extended playtime may create overly tired and cranky kids. We found this out the hard way on our way home from the beach; two tired little 2 year olds who missed their nap made the rest of the night not so fun.
Playtime is part of our kids’ development, learning and growing process. It is important to carve out time for playdates for our children. According to a USA Today article, since the 70s kids have lost an average of nine hours of free playtime a week. There is a playtime deficit.
Do you schedule playdates for your children? What type of activities do they like? Please share.
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