Sunday, 16 December 2012

To Playdate or not to Playdate...

Great Play date Debate (or how to organise one and still be standing at the end of 90 minutes)
Munchy is growing up fast-fact. She’s learning new things everyday, and a day where she has no social interaction with anyone is clearly a day that makes my little flower unhappy (lucky for us our Postman is the cheeriest one on the block and takes time to have a chat with Munchy everyday). We attend playgroups, visit soft play centres and do the usual day trips and visits to friends houses (plus the dinner parties and tea parties at home-which Munchy is now great at hosting) but as she gets older her has a natural desire to form friendships so now I must bite the bullet and dates.
According to the older generations, play dates were hosted back when I was a child but were more of a BOGOF-the parents would be visiting the parents and the kids got to play-simple concept. Parents didn’t put effort into kid’s snacks or drinks, and it was a case of ‘here are the toys get on with it’. Now just looking at a Family Calendar and you will see the words ‘Play date for X’ rather than ‘catch up with X for chat and take little one too’. How times are changing. The demands to be Mary Poppins as a mother are ever increasing and if God forbid you are a ‘SAHM’ (stay at home Mum) you are expected to do it all. Why? Well we don’t go out to earn so society expect us to earn our keep. Why others feel the need to judge another’s lifestyle boggles the brain but it’s done especially at the gates of Schools all over the world.
Oh yes I started rambling...back to the subject. Play dates. So now it’s all the rage. Pick up a parenting magazine and chances are they are discussing it. Look at a gossip magazine and the likelihood is if they are featuring parent celebrities they will be discussing who the kids hang out with (e.g. David Beckham’s brood supposedly hangs out with Snoop Dogs lot-yes they are older but you get the picture).
Considering Munchys age I do have a confession to make-Munchy is yet to make close friends as I have yet to find a parent and toddler we gel with. I have a friend with a daughter the same age as Munchy however they both crave the spotlight so the friendship is somewhat strained. I’ve met some lovely ladies at playgroup with boys the same age as Munchy-that’s lovely but I want Munchy to make friends with girls. No I’m not sexist. I’m simply thinking long term and if Munchys social circle is female dominated from the get go I won’t have to worry about ‘editing’ it later down the line. Plus statistically girls do better at School than boys-why would I want Munchy to hang around with boys when it maybe more beneficial for her to have girl pals? I’m not stupid folks, I understand she will meet boys given the fact we are in the West, this doesn’t upset me nor does it scare me. If I’m truly honest I do hope In Shaa Allah when the time comes Munchy finds a life partner herself who she has the world in common with. Living with someone you have zero in common with often means the couple scrap the barrel simply to find something to talk about. But whilst I am in charge of her social gatherings I would prefer her to stick with girls.
I go to Soft Play Centres secretly hoping I meet a mother who has a daughter of a similar age who Munchy gels with so we can have them over. It hasn’t happened yet but we shall not give up hope! Anyone want to be our friend?
In the meantime I do have some pearls of wisdom in regards to organising a Play date at home:
1) Invite just one parent and their child(ren) keep numbers small as this isn’t a party rather an opportunity for your child to develop their socialising skills
2) keep the date short-around 90 minutes is more than sufficient to begin with
3) Organise it at a suitable time-after a nap maybe better or at the beginning of the day
 rather than just before a nap is due
4) Don’t over stretch or stress yourself about the cleanliness of your home. Keep the date to your living room. A living room is to be lived in. I am currently typing from my living room and can see puzzle pieces on the floor, a pile of washed clothes that need to be folded and put away and two large boxes of Happyland toys that need to go into Munchys incomplete bedroom asap! When I host a play date I shall simply ensure this room is clean and tidy. Might even burn a Yankee candle-after all when we get guests these days?
Also try and keep in mind the parent and child are coming over to well play. They are not coming over to check if your dusting is up to scratch. Try and enjoy the date-you maybe able to have a short chat, which is quite standard on a first date. Most parents are worried about what their child may do to the hosting child. It’s fairly standard for parents to worry but once you’ve hosted your first date it will settle your nerves about opening your home to a toddler and their parent.
5) Only present toys your child is not possessive about-e.g. please do not put out their favourite toy the likelihood is your child will not want to share. Ask the other mum to bring a toy too.
6) Keep snacks simple-a bowl of grapes, some sliced banana and toast should be more than enough.  If you don’t want to make toast serve thin slices of cheese and raisins alongside some cut fruit. Serve what works for you. Drink wise keep to milk, or fresh juice (small amount only). Most mothers prefer diluted juice-apple and blackcurrant is a favourite at our house. It’s the ‘norm’ from what I have seen to serve these around 20-30 minutes from the end of the date. To be on the safe side ask the mum if their child has any allergies. Also, avoid serving food and drink in your toddlers favourite cups and dishes until you know how your little one feels about their ‘friend’.
7) Try to not over cater for the parent. A hot drink with a slice of store bought cake in my humble opinion is more than enough. I admit that I love catering for people so may struggle with this but what you need to remember is whatever you serve up the parent will wish to outdo when you visit (well most of the time). Avoid talking about anything too serious. Why not chat about what you do during the day or what school you hope your child gets into (avoid slating other schools in the area just in case).
8) Have a bit of structure to the play date but don’t go O.T.T. Half an hour into the date introduce something new-perhaps some playdoh and moulds.
9) A good mixture of toys are: playdoh, pots and pans, Aqua doodles, books and our favourite Happyland (I’m not sure if you can get Happyland in the States but it’s available from all good ELC or Mothercares in the UK and even the UAE). If all else fails and war breaks loose, I recommend putting on a DVD-Tinkerbell calms my child I’m sure you know what works for your cherubs.
10) Avoid paints, crayons and pencils-basically anything that can be used to ‘decorate’ your walls with whilst you serve the snacks. Put them away safely until you can watch your child efficiently.   
Whatever happens remember you are doing this for the benefit of your child. The better our children’s social skills and the better they can grasp friendships will help them endlessly settle into school. The rage is play dates but we don’t have to follow them to the T. Be flexi, invite a friend to the park for a small picnic, go to the soft play centre together, or go for a walk around a Lake and take some bread. All of these give your child the opportunity to ‘mingle’ so don’t be put off by the idea of outdoor play dates. Don't let the cold weather put you off either-how about taking a flask of soup with you?
Have fun folks and let me know how you get on. In the meantime we’re still on a mission to find a suitable play date mother/child.

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