6 Tricks to Keep Your Sanity During Summer Playdates
by Jeanne Sager
Summer vacation has officially started for every single kid I know. Plenty of late nights in the backyard, firefly catching, and of course, playdates stretch out in front of us. Today's version of "playing with the neighborhood kids" is something we parents feel required to plan to "keep the kids connected." Our parents threw us outside to play early on a summer morning and didn't expect us back until supper. We plan out get-togethers with their buddies, complete with games and meals.
Don't get me wrong. I love me some playdates. They are a perfect way to ward off the dreaded "I'm bored" that comes from kids who've become accustomed to a teacher telling them what to do all day long.
But as every parent knows, not all playdates are created equal.
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If you're depending on playdates to keep your kid (and you) sane this summer, allow me to offer a little advice on how to keep things from going off the rails!
Do Feed the Animals
Get the skinny beforehand on allergies, but providing some sort of sustenance is a must ... even for an hour-long playdate ... because kids love to eat (especially at someone else's house). Oh, and if they don't eat it all, or even really eat any of it, don't freak. Just consider it the price you had to pay to keep them happy.
Sure, you should check in on them once in awhile to make sure everyone's breathing (kidding, kidding ... sort of), but I have lived through more than 100 playdates by now, and I have learned something very important. The less involved I am, the more inclined the kids are to solve their own problems. If I'm "right there," they're either vying for my attention or they're running straight to me to tell on one another over the slightest thing.
If you MUST be nearby (say the kids are in a pool), refuse to get involved in their squabbles. The sooner they realize you won't engage, the sooner they'll return to having fun.
Set a Time for It All to End
When you only have X number of hours together, it's imperative to make the most of it ... not waste it away in time-out.
How cranky do you get when you're hot and sweaty? Multiply that by at least 100 for kids. There is no such thing as a fun playdate in summer that doesn't involve water. NO. SUCH. THING!
Don't have a pool? No problem. Try these wild and wet water games.
Keep It Even
It doesn't matter that all three kids are the best of friends, two will inevitably gang up on the one ... or go off together, leaving one lonely kid. If you've got more than two kids, you MUST jump to four, over that to six, and so on.
It's tempting to keep kids occupied by planning endless activities. But that's not exactly fun for kids, and isn't the point of playdates so the kids can enjoy themselves?
The best dates at my house always seem to be the ones where the kids end up running wildly through the backyard doing everything and nothing in particular all at the same time.
Do you do summer playdates for your kid? How do you keep things from going nuts?