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Six Steps to a Successful Preschool Playdate



If it's your first, or your third, there's always something to learn

Hudson Valley parents, especially new ones, may enjoy reading the ideas listed in the book, A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists, by Michelle LaRowe provides some terrific ideas concerning common queries, like "questions to ask before choosing a pediatrician," and "what's safe and what's not during pregnancy," and does so in clear, concise tips. For planning the perfect playdate, she shares her common sense approach:

1. Prepare in advance.  Set up the time and the environment for a win-win situation. Work around nap times, limit playdates to two hours, and childproof the areas you'll be using. The ideal number of children for a playdate is the age of your child plus one, although playdates with larger groups can be successful with a little extra planning and preparation.

2. Make sharing easier. Put away any special toys that your child doesn't like to share. Every child should have a few toys that are "off limits" to others. Putting these prized possessions away during playdates can head off potential sharing problems.

3. Set up stations. In the play area, set up a few different stations for the children to play in. Activities that several children can participate in at the same time work best for group play. A station for blocks, one for kitchen play, and one for games (like Hullabaloo or Simon Says) will keep larger groups of kids actively engaged.

4. Serve a snack. Having a light snack -- fresh fruit, cheese, and milk -- on hand can provide the perfect break if things get tense.

5. Explain the ground rules. Let kids know the rules before playtime starts. For example: "We play in this room, we keep our hands to ourselves, and we use our indoor voices." Spelling out your expectations can eliminate blurry boundaries.

6. Allow the children to work out their own problems. Let the children play and learn to work out minor squabbles on their own. Unlwess it gets physical or emotionally hurtful, allowing kids to solve their disputes is the best way to foster communication, negotiation, and social skills.

Last thought: Having a theme for your playdate can make things super fun, and providing a loose structure for the playtime helps make it successful. "On the Farm," and "In the Kitchen," are great playdate themes. Collect and put out all of the toys and books that you have related to your theme, make copies of coloring pages that depict your theme and serve a snack that reflects the theme.