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I like to think my friends and I have mastered the art of how to throw a fun playdate! We try make them a weekly activity so that toddlers can discover how to play and interact with other children their age. Plus it gives us mums a chance to catch up and have a coffee (or two). It’s something I genuinely look forward to now and it’s been brilliant for Finlay and Parker in helping them build friendships all of their own.
Play is such an important way that children learn new skills and I’ve noticed more and more of the benefits since hosting regular playdates. Finlay’s gone from a fairly shy toddler to joining in more and more, not to mention his communication skills have also come on leaps and bounds. Parker has just turned 1 and is finding all sorts of inspiration from playing surrounded by fellow little ones and his brother’s friends. These exciting stages have been new to all of us and I’ve found the Science of Play videos from Aptamil Growing Up milks particularly helpful by highlighting just how much our children are learning through everyday play together.
As a mum to two boys I’ve found these tips useful on how to host a successful play date, have a read below!
1. Schedule a specific time that avoids nap times etc.
My favourite time to schedule a playdate is always in the mornings, as it tends to be when toddlers are in their best mood. Anytime after this and you’re nearing nap time and you can quickly find yourselves in “tantrum territory”. The whole atmosphere can change very quickly when you’re deal- ing with over tired children, which is why I make sure our playdates are always scheduled at a time that I know the boys tend to be at their best.
2. Create Activity Areas
I love creating different activity areas. For example we’ll have a corner for train tracks, blocks, DIY games and a reading nook. It helps offer our toddlers choice and encourages them to share when there’s lots of other toys on offer. The same can be done outside in the garden by laying down a blanket with some toys, bringing out the tent and other outdoor games like a sandpit. It helps keep things more relaxed when there’s a bit of order to the toys on offer.
3. Get Creative
There are so many great games you can play with your toddlers to help encourage them to play together. A few of our favourites are:
– The Sleeping Bunnies Song: this is a cute interactive song to sing together and one of Finlay’s favourites. Something noted in the Science of Play videos is how singing and dancing together is a creative shared activity that also teaches our children how to express themselves, plus valuable transferable skills. Toddlers can become aware of music from 9 months and even though Parker (12 months) can’t join in the jumping part of the song yet, he loves to try and mimic the sounds he hears and wave his arms to the music.
– Bubbles are probably the fastest way to grab our toddlers’ attention and they never fail to get them on their feet together.
– Zoo Pretend Play With an Old Box: One of our favourite DIY’s is where you make use of a big old box, turn it on its side and transform it into a play zoo cage. Make the “bars” out of string and then stick any toy animals you have inside.
4. Suggest items to bring if you have certain plans
It’s always useful to be prepared, especially if you have plans to use the garden. As playing in the garden is one of our favourite playdate activities, I always suggest our guests bring a bag packed with overalls, wellies and a spare change of clothes should we get the opportunity to go outside and play or do some messy crafts.
5. Keep it relaxed
We all know toddlers can be unpredictable little beings. For this reason we tend to keep our plans as relaxed as possible and simply see what works on the day. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be the perfect host, as it’s more than likely your fellow mum friends won’t bat an eyelid if there’s still washing out or you don’t have a scrap of makeup on etc. The best play dates are the ones that are natural and simply go with the flow.