Play Date Consciousness

There are various experiences parents have with the play date game. Emma Donaldson shares her thoughts on how you can have and be more aware of’ ‘Play Date Consciousness’.

Very early on, we teach our children the importance of friends. From the time we place them next to each other in nappies on the play-mat to parents group and kinder, friendships and bonding with other same age children is high on our agenda. For some, play dates and long term friendships come easily.

Family friends, cousins, friends of siblings, childcare to kindy, the options can be endless, with our children having a better social life than their mums and dads! For others, children who have older siblings or no siblings, children who are shy, or those who experience that daunting process of making friends, arranging play dates and keeping playmates can be stressful for parents and the children.

Making friends and maintaining friends at school is a vital aspect of early years human connection.

The early years of school are most formative not only for cognition, but social and emotional development too. Making friends and maintaining friends at school is a vital aspect of early years human connection, and requires all of those involved in the learning community our children participate in, to do our part.

I call this conscious play dating: yes, on top of everything else you do with your little one(s), thinking through your role in your child and their friends’ life is important. The starting point is to think about all the children in your son or daughter’s class. From birthday party invitations to sleep overs and playing at each other’s place outside of school, how you arrange, discuss and share the event requires some consciousness.

Many of the children I work with have difficulty making friends, despite desperately wanting to have a consistent friend or friendship group. Think about the classroom your child is in:  are they getting extra opportunities to play with their friends outside of school? Is there a child that may not be included in all the birthday parties?

The anxiety that builds for a child who has trouble making friends, or is always the one being left out, is significant. If your child is experiencing this, or you know a child who is, there are some simple ways you can make a difference in the lives of all these children and their parents.

…make the effort to invite children over with similar interests for a play date with your child.

Chris Varney discusses the importance of an I CAN network, where consistent and genuine friends in the lives of all children makes a difference for kids of all abilities and needs. If you are a parent who recognises signs of your child displaced, make the effort to invite children over with similar interests for a play date with your child. Often you can be overwhelmed with everything else, this small step can be overlooked. If you recognise a child who might be missing out, extend an invitation to that child, check with the parents as to what his or her interests are, and arrange a play date around that. If you’re a teacher, set up a policy in your classroom where party invitations are handed out by the teacher, intervene where possible and encourage outside of school friendships too.

If it is still difficult to create play dates, check in with the local library and councils, they run numerous children focused activities, which creates more community links and bonds for your child. There are social and friendship groups that can be formed too, run by allied health professionals and experts in the field of neurodiversity. Often play dates form from these programs too.

The important point is for all of us to make a conscious effort to think of all the children in the learning community you are a part of: is everyone being included and getting positive social interactions from one to one or group settings? Sometimes it takes reminders such as these to make a small but imperative change to our routine thinking and expanding our friend and support networks.

Play dates is a frequent area I am asked about, and it reminds me of my play date anxiety as a youngster. I never wanted to leave my younger brother and tried to invite him along too. When I finally took the risk alone, I returned home to a bunch of letters he wrote me in my absence! Such a sweet gesture from him, but it made leaving home for that sleep over all the more difficult!

Have you experienced play date anxiety with your child, yourself or a friend’s child? Comment below!


Article published originally in Content Kids:

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