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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Benefits of Playdate

Children learn through playing with other children, so it is important that they get plenty of opportunities to do so. A play date is a great way to help children to grow socially, intellectually and physically.  They learn how to interact, cooperate and collaborate to plan together, to agree on things, and what to do when they disagree. They gain the knowledge how to share, take turns, be polite and respectful. Kids learn to think about what another child wants or needs. These help them to learn about empathy, the foundation of tolerance. The empathy, which is the antidote for bullying. Children get also a chance to learn new games, in different setting, with the toys that they don’t have at home. And of course while doing some projects they master fine motor skills or burn off their energy while mastering a monkey bar. There is something unusual about a play date, unstructured, unfettered, unencumbered play. It gives kids the opportunity to imagine, pretend, play silly and be proud of their own abilities.
A structure of a play date is really up to a hosting parent, who decides what and where the children will play (a playground, garden, park, museum, or home), whether they will play on their own just under some supervision or if an activity/project is going to be set and offered. The main thing is that the children get to play together. From my experience some careful planning can make play dates more likely to be successful and enjoyable for all participants. This includes keeping a play date short (90 minutes up to two hours), providing a healthy snack, so the kids can watch and learn manners and try new food they wouldn’t even touch at home, choosing kids that genuinely like each other, sticking to a small group up to four, and putting aside toys that might cause sharing problems. Even young children can benefit from play dates. Infants and toddlers might play side by side, commonly known as a parallel play. This is an important stage in peer relationships. As they get older, they will start to play more together and practice such things as sharing and speaking their minds instead of hitting.
You wonder how parents will benefit from a play date?  They can meet other families with whom they can become friends, brainstorm some ideas or watch own child how does he make a new friend and act in a group.
When you arrange a play date don't overplan - stay simple.  For example, when a playdate is happening at home get out clothes for a dress up, an old bed sheet to play a parachute, some puppets, let them set up a store with things to sell and play money; give them some space, some papers, crayons, glue and let them be creative. Make sure to ask the kids what they'd like to do. Make them feel a part of the planning. Be prepared to introduce something new, especially if an activity doesn't appeal to one of the kids. Get some print outs in advance as a back up plan. For worksheets’ and printable go to
Soon after the playmates arrive, talk about what the rules are in your home. Tell what is OK and what is not., e.g. if they are they allowed to take what they want out of the kitchin, play with the water, turn on the computer, etc. Make sure your child takes some responsibility for his friend. Don't allow any physical fighting - that would be when you might want to separate the kids for a short time. If these are very young kids, 3 and under, you should be in the same room. If they are older, 5 to 10, it's still a good idea to stay within earshot. Plan your schedule so you're fully available. You may be called upon to be referee, or at the very least, activity director. For the activities go to
 “…Here are just a few of the proven scientific benefits of letting our kids get messy and doing something besides clicking those darn keypads and video controllers and paper and pencil tasks:

1. Play boosts children’s creativity and imagination. Play gives children the chance to invent, build, expand, explore and develop a whole different part of the brain.
2. Play stretches our children’s attention span. Playing outdoors just 30 minutes a day increases child’s ability to focus and pay attention.
3. Play and rough-housing boost boys’ problem solving abilities. The more elementary school-boys engaged in rough-housing, the better they scored on a test of social problem solving. (Don’t ya love that one!)
4. Play boosts self-confidence and self-regulation. Kids learn to become masters of their own destiny without an adult directing, pushing, managing or scheduling.
5. Play forges friendships, strengthens social competence and teaches social skills. Undirected play allows kids to learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, communicate and develop core social skills they need not only now but for the rest of their lives.
6. Play helps kids learn to enjoy just being in their own company, entertain themselves and develop identity. Ease that guilt when your kid says, “I’m bored, Mom!”
7. Play reduces children’s anxiety and diminishes stress. A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that play is also critical for our children’s emotional health because it helps kids work through anxiety and reduce stress.
8. Play creates joyful memories of childhood. Come on, no kid is going to remember the car pools and worksheets but the swings, jumping in leaves, playing leapfrog in the mud, blowing bubbles, building forts–those are the unforgettable childhood moments. Sigh!
9. Play boosts physical health and reduces risk of obesity. Henry Joseph Legere, MD, author of Raising Healthy Eaters points out: “Rises in screen time have led to the rise of a sedentary lifestyle for our children. In 1982, the childhood obesity prevalence in the United States was actually less than 4 percent. By 2004, that number had grown to about 30 percent.”
9. Play expands our kids minds and neurological development. Self-initiated play improve skills such as guessing, figuring, interpreting and is important to brain development and learning
10. Play builds new competencies, leadership skills, teaches lifelong hobbies, and develops resilience. “Play is what allows kids to manipulate their environment,” says a report written by Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D. of the AAP, “And how you manipulate your environment is about how you begin to take control, how you begin to develop your senses, how you view the world.”
11. Play nurtures the parent-child bond. Child-driven play also improves our parent-kid relationship. Play offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to see the world from our children’s eyes as well as strengthen our relationship when we join in." To read more go to

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