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A play date is an organized period of time during which two or more children get together to play. Play dates allow kids to relax and enjoy themselves, and they also cultivate important social skills. In some cases, parents may get together and form an organized play group of children who frequently play together. Organizing a play date for your child is relatively simple, but there are some things to take into account.
In the case of very young children, usually all parents are present during a play date. Play dates also give parents an opportunity to relax and socialize with each other, which can be be an issue for some young parents or parents who have recently relocated. During the play date, each parent keeps an eye on the children while reassuring his or her child, making the child feel more comfortable. Older children may be supervised by fewer parents or by a nanny, since they are more confident without their parents.
The activities of a play date may be structured or unstructured. Usually, toys and enrichment tools are provided, but the children are allowed to explore and interact relatively freely. In other cases, a play date may include organized singing or other fun activities which are designed to promote working together as a group. A snack may also be offered, or children may be encouraged to bring their own snacks.
If you are thinking about organizing a play date, make sure to be specific about location and time when you make plans with other parents. If parents intend to drop their children off for the play date, get emergency contact information and ask about food allergies and health problems. If you intend to offer a snack, check to make certain that this is ok, and ask about any forbidden foods. Parents who intend to drop their kids off should plan to reciprocate with a play date of their own in the near future, and they should make sure that the host is provided with all necessary information about their children.
There are some other things that you may want to consider when planning a play date or receiving an invitation for a play date. Make sure that all sides are aware of prevailing house rules in the house of the host, as well as conditions which might make a difference to some parents, like the presence of pets or a television. It is an excellent idea to meet with the hosting parents first to make sure that you share philosophies about child care; you may want to ask about how they handle conflict, for example, or about their stance on activities like videogames or rough play.
Many people find the sight of children playing very charming, and it is also very important developmentally. Play is an important part of development for many organisms, and it stimulates imagination, problem solving, and cooperation skills. An ideal play date is fun for all involved as well as beneficial to the social development of the kids at play.
I know organized play dates are great for busy moms, but there's also something nice about the kid next door yelling over the fence, "Can Judy come out to play?" There's a lot to be said for two children playing in the backyard, on the swingset, in the dirt and making up whatever games their fancies suggest.
I think sometimes we structure our time so strictly that we don't have time to enjoy just allowing life to "happen." Kids need spontaneity and happenstance just as much as adults do.
Maybe it's time to think less about "play dates" and more about just "playing" in general.