Hello dearies. So, I’ve been trying to think of new topics to write about on the site, and one of them that just came to me yesterday is playdates. Are playdates necessary in your children’s lives? Since my kids have each other to play with at home, I’ve often asked myself over the years whether they really need playdates. As my boys have gotten older and now have homework, fewer of their pals have playdates right after school. Rather they meet up on Fridays or over the weekend to watch movies or play video games. My younger girls Annaliese (6 today!) and Marielle (4) lie at at the other end of the spectrum: having just started Kindergarten, Annaliese has been meeting with a friend from her class maybe once a week after school. With Marielle, once a week we try to invite a school friend over for lunch and some play time, or she sometimes goes to lunch at a friend’s house before her gymnastics class.
When I think about it, I’m now booking playdates for all five of my kids on a weekly basis, which does make for a pretty busy schedule given the other activities they do! Also makes me realize that I’ve turned 360 degrees from how I approached playdates a few years back. When my oldest Hedley (now 10) was 5, I struggled on a daily basis with juggling Hedley and his three younger sibs, including a baby I was nursing. Our daily life had me so stretched and pulled … I was completely overwhelmed. Happy and content as I felt with the babies, I resisted throwing into the mix a spontaneous event that wasn’t planned. Hedley maybe had under 10 playdates for his entire preschool career. He also missed a fair amount of birthday parties, which he is fully aware of and points out to me to this day! Oops!
Yet I now think playdates are really important for kids of any age. Here are 5 reasons why I think they have benefited my kids, with a focus on Marielle to illustrate why:
1) Playdates make your child feel as if he has a life of his own. Marielle is the 5th child and gets the short end of the stick on a daily basis. If I’m busy with the other kids when it’s time for her to go to bed, she gets plopped into bed. There’s no ritual, no daily song, and only sometimes, a book or two. Yet when Marielle’s skipping home to host a play date, she’s giddy with joy. She knows that her Mommy put aside some time for her to be with a friend and that makes her feel like an INDIVIDUAL. Like she matters. She’s not just part of the herd. Beckett, my 7 year old, also relishes special time with a friend outside of school and in a new environment. He’s the third of three boys and fights to have a role and a voice! Here he is on the way to a recent museum visit with a friend.
2) When you find the right playmates, playdates are fun. Just as we adults click with certain others, so do our kids. On certain play dates, Marielle will be drawing princesses while her friend plays on his own with trains. But on others, Marielle and her friend laugh in harmony as a naughty duo, concocting up a whole range of small adventures. They are leaping across our hall as if it’s a deep river, giving each other hairstyles (and this includes boys, one of whom recently adopted a headband of Marielle’s to his delight) or making cities and trains using our old Thomas the Train set. Our apartment (usually overtaken by the noise and clamor of her four older siblings) is her’s. The time is her’s. It’s special and she revels in it.
3) Playdates help your child connect more deeply with a classmate. When you have fun with someone, you like to be with them, and you feel connected to them. Not to mention working up your kid’s social skills. You may be wondering “How can I teach my toddler to share?” Having them interact with other kids their age while at their homes will teach them these valuable lessons!
4) Playdates allow you as a parent to see how your child interacts with their peers. It’s fun for me to witness Marielle playing and talking with her pals. I’ve seen a funny, silly side of her come out during playdates. She feels like the leader and loves to suggest what she and her friend will do, a different role for her than the one she plays at home.
5) Playdates allow your child to experience another family and their home. All families are different, all homes are different, and we all eat different things and do things in our own unique and special ways. I think it’s great for active kids to learn that when they step into a friend’s home, the rituals there might differ from what they’re used to and that they need to adjust and follow suit. Also, it’s enriching to get to know a friend’s parent, too!
So rather than thinking of them as a waste of time, I’m now a big believer that playdates are pretty much essential. Setting them up often soaks up a lot of time, as does the dropping off and picking up. But to me, those small costs shrink in importance when you consider the benefits to your kid.
How often do your children do playdates and do you think they matter? I’d love to hear from you.
Hope you liked this little blog post and please feel free to write in with your reactions.